Germany puts more pressure on Sellafield

Future imports of MOX nuclear fuel rods "hanging in the balance," says environment ministry

UK nuclear plant Sellafield, the subject of critical safety reports last week (ENDS Daily 18 February), has been further undermined by a strong reaction from the German government. The German environment ministry yesterday recommended switching to an alternative supplier of nuclear fuel, increasing the threat to Sellafield's commercial viability.

Germany is the only European user of Sellafield mixed oxide (MOX) fuel apart from Switzerland. Reports on the site by the UK Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) concluded that data on MOX fuel pellets exported to Japan had been falsified and that safety management needed to be improved.

Ten German nuclear power plants are contracted to use Sellafield MOX fuel. The environment ministry said yesterday that the data falsification had been "unprecedented" and that Sellafield's operator BNFL had "systematically neglected safety standards". "The reliability of Sellafield as a provider of nuclear fuel rods is hanging in the balance," a ministry spokesperson added. In response, German nuclear operators have stressed that the issue of fuel pellet data falsification has not affected fuel imported by them.

Switzerland's nuclear authority HSK has not made similar criticisms of Sellafield following the NII reports. Tony Treier of HSK told ENDS Daily today that the authority would be visiting the plant to make its own checks before ordering any more MOX fuel, but said there had been no problems with MOX imported by Switzerland. The country's Greenpeace branch has been less happy, however, and is demanding an end to all imports of fuel from Sellafield.

Follow Up:
German environment ministry, tel: +49 30 28550; HSK, tel: +41 56 310 3811.

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