JAPAN On 22 January the Japanese Science and Technology Agency announced that the government is considering using two British ships to escort shipments of MOX fuel to Japan.
A treaty between Japan and US requires that plutonium shipments should be escorted and when the Akatsuki Maru transported pure plutonium oxide to PNC in 1992-1993, a special Japanese patrol boat was used as an (armed) escort. As the plutonium in MOX fuel is very difficult to separate, it is generally considered that a simpler kind of escort will be adequate.
The present plan is to use two ships belonging to Pacific Nuclear Transport Ltd, a subsidiary of BNFL, as escorts and that armed police should be on board the vessels. The STA stated that the US government did not have any objection to the system. However, government negotiations are often time consuming and there is a risk that the shipment may delay the loading of MOX fuel into Takahama unit 4 which was scheduled for this summer.