A nuclear fuel shipment to Japan that
has stirred up protests by environmentalists is expected to reach port aboard two British cargo ships on Sept. 22, according to Japanese media sources
The ships, carrying MOX fuel, a mixture of uranium and plutonium recycled from spent nuclear fuel, will arrive at a port near the city of Iwaki, about 130 miles north of Tokyo.
The armed British cargo ship Pacific Teal left the French port of Cherbourg on July 21 and subsequently linked up with the Pacific Pintail, its sister ship, for the journey to Japan. The Pacific Pintail had been loaded with MOX from Britain's Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant.
After unloading part of their cargo at Iwaki, the ships will round the northern tip of Japan's main island of Honshu to haul the remainder to a nuclear power plant in Fukui prefecture, on the Japan Sea in northwest Japan, with arrival likely on Sept. 27, Kyodo news agency said.
An official at Japan's Science and Technology Agency said he could not confirm when the ships were likely to enter port.
A spokesman at Tokyo Electric Power Co Inc (TEPCO), which will take the shipment for Iwaki, also declined to comment on when the ships would arrive. TEPCO is co-sponsoring the shipment with Kansai Electric Power Co Inc, which operates the nuclear plant in Fukui.
The voyage marks the first transfer of so-called "direct use" nuclear material, considered easily convertible into weapons-grade material, since 1992, and sparked protests in Cherbourg prior to the departure of the Pacific Teal.