Fuel row puts block on BNFL privatisation

The government’s plan to partially privatise British Nuclear Fuels was thrown into further disarray last week when a Japanese utility blocked future contracts with the company.

Kansai Electric said it would not sign any more contracts with BNFL until the falsification of quality assurance data on mixed oxide (Mox) fuel from Sellafield – discovered last year – was resolved. It has put a four-month ban on any new business with BNFL.

The government is sending a delegation to Japan at the end of the month, which will include the head of the UK Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, to try and resolve the issue.

Kansai is demanding that the fuel be taken back by BNFL – a proposal both the nuclear firm and the government are keen to avoid.

The affair is threatening the start-up of the £300m Mox production plant that BNFL has built at Sellafield. If the plant does not receive consent to operate, the government’s plans to sell off part of the company to private investors will almost certainly collapse.