More data irregularities lead to suspension of BNFL’s Japanese contract

Further evidence of irregularities in safety data accompanying MOX fuel sent by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd to Japan earlier this year has led to suspension of the British nuclear fuel reprocessor's only Japanese contract.

The first shipment of reprocessed MOX fuel arrived in Japan in October, after a sea journey opposed by environmentalists and national governments (see related story). Even before the shipment arrived, the discovery of falsified data sheets related to the cargo was made public.

Further embarrassment came when British nuclear industry regulators wrote to BNFL’s Japanese client, Kansai Electric, stating that more irregularities of a ‘suspect’ nature had been detected. Now, BNFL has admitted that a third discovery of ‘unusual data’ was unearthed on 15 December.

A total of three lots of the MOX fuel delivered to Japan in October have been identified as possessing data sheets (that contain about 600 measurements each) with too many similarities.

“This has clearly damaged BNFL’s reputation,” Alan Hughes of BNFL told edie. “But we believe that we can restore our customers’ confidence in us.”

Hughes denies that the unusual data, discovered since the obviously-falsified sheets in September, represents another example of falsification. “Some data sets are duplicated but a lot less often than the data we know to be falsified.”

Kansai Electric was informed of the latest suspect data sheet immediately, and the company announced the suspension of its contract with BNFL the next day. It is considering what to do with the shipment it received in October, including the option of returning it to BNFL.

No other Japanese company currently maintains a contract with BNFL for MOX fuel reprocessing. BNFL’s hopes of opening a MOX fuel factory look increasingly unlikely, with French nuclear company, Cogema, expected to secure Japanese contracts for nuclear fuel reprocessing in future.

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