Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

Western Waste Fuels Eastern Explosion

Japan receives UK nuclear fuel a week before worst nuclear power accident.

Squall Download 1, Oct/Nov 1999, pg. 7.

A consignment of nuclear fuel produced at Sellafield in Cumbria finally completed it’s controversial 20,000 mile sea-journey to Japan just one week before the worst nuclear accident in Japanese history. The 32 MOX fuel units - enough to make 60 atomic bombs - were transported on a lightly armed cargo ship from the UK to the Fukushima Nuclear plant on Japan's pacific coast. It was accompanied by a second cargo vessel carrying MOX units produced in France.

Braving high winds and driving rain, Japanese anti-nuclear protestors gathered at Fukushima harbour for the arrival of the uranium/reprocessed plutonium fuel, whilst a helicopter and dinghies from Greenpeace’s “MV Artic Sunrise” played cat and mouse with Japanese Maritime Safety Commando’s out at sea. The protests was further inflamed by the sudden revelation and subsequent admission by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd that they had faked 22 nuclear safety checks on more MOX fuel units destined for Japan at a future date. Greenpeace spearheaded the international protest campaign against the shipment, raising considerable public awareness about a highly dangerous cargo, relatively undefended against piracy or accident. The consignment was the first of up to 80 nuclear shipments which are due to be made from the UK to Japan over the next ten years.

A survey commissioned by Japan’s Prime Ministers Office and published in August, revealed two thirds of the Japanese population were concerned at the possibility of nuclear accidents in the country. One month after the survey and just one week after the arrival of the Sellafield manufactured MOX units, an uncontrolled chain reaction at the Tokaimura nuclear reprocessing plant 70 miles north of Tokyo blew the roof off. The accident was graded as level four contamination by the International Atomic Energy Assessment, making it the worst nuclear accident in the world since Chernobyl (Chernobyl was graded seven, Long Island graded five).

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Read the communique from SQUALL photographer Nick Cobbing who was aboard the Greenpeace ship as the nuclear fuel was docking at Fukushima Nuclear Power plant