Lawsuit Against the Use of MOX Fuel at Fukushima I-3 Nuke Info Tokyo No. 81

The third hearing on the case seeking a provisional injunction against the use of Belgonucleaire (BN)’s MOX fuel at Fukushima I-3 was held at the Fukushima District Court on 27 Oct. 2000. The main argument concerns whether BN exercised proper control over quality control data for the outer diameters of MOX fuel pellets manufactured for Fukushima I-3 (see NIT 80 pp 4-5).

Basing our arguments on statistics, we, the plaintiffs, questioned the claim made by the defendant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), that there was a zero rejection ratio for the MOX pellets. We are arguing that the defendant’s claim is indeed proof that some kind of falsification had taken place.

Mr. Nezu, TEPCO’s fuel managing group manager, contended in his formal statement that “it is possible to have a zero rejection ratio, it is not anomalous.” However, his argument became fatally circuitous as he asserted that “this argument is based on the fact that BN has an excellent quality control ability for the data on MOX pellets’ outer diameter. This is proven by the fact that they had a zero rejection ratio [for the lots prepared for Fukushima I-3].” So far TEPCO has not released any of the data demanded by the plaintiffs.

Furthermore, TEPCO based their comparison of the respective rejection ratios of BN and BNFL on the same assumption about the zero rejection ratio at BN, arguing that “the quality control data has a regular distribution” and concluding that the supposed 0.01% rejection ratio of BN was 200 times less than the 1.7% of BNFL. This argument now obliges TEPCO to prove that BN is about 200 times superior to BNFL.

The above matters were debated at the fourth hearing on 28 Nov. 2000. The court ordered TEPCO to either produce the data demanded by the plaintiffs or give a sound argument on why they cannot provide the information. The court ordered TEPCO to give specific details on the following points: (1) how and what they confirmed during the witness inspection, (2) the contents of the pre-manufacture process confirmation, (3) the precision of the laser micro-meter used to measure pellets for the total pellet inspection, (4) the average and standard deviation figures for the total pellet inspection if it exists. (TEPCO maintains that there is no data from the total pellet inspection.)

All four hearings so far were closed sessions. However, the court decided that the next hearing will be an oral hearing which will be open to the public and the media. The next hearing will be held on 26 Dec. 2000. Mr. Hideyuki Koyama (Instructor at the Osaka Prefectural University) and Dr. Frank Barnaby (Former Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) will present testimony in support of the plaintiffs’ case. Mr. Koyama will testify about the statistical assumptions concerning data falsification. Dr. Barnaby will testify about the homogeneity of BN’s MOX pellets, in particular to the safety problems associated with plutonium spots (plutonium clods) which are speculated to be more often in BN pellets than in pellets manufactured by other companies using alternate methods.

The Fukushima Governor, Eisaku Sato, has been very cautious in giving the final approval for the use of MOX fuel at Fukushima I-3, and has shown great interest in this court case. Though we try to refrain from being overly optimistic, we are slowly driving TEPCO into a corner, and there is indeed a possibility that we might win a provisional injunction against the use of MOX fuel.

By Chihiro Kamisawa

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