Sellafield’s Mixed Oxcide Fuel (MOX) plant, which turns nuclear waste into fuel, is to be closed following the Fukushima disaster in Japan in March.

According to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) a ‘dramatic fall’ in demand resulting from the decision to begin decommissioning Japanese nuclear plants means the Cumbrian facility will close at the ‘earliest’ opportunity.

A spokesman for the NDA said: “In order to ensure the UK taxpayer does not carry a future financial burden from the plant – the only reasonable course of action is to close it at the earliest practical opportunity.”

This decision, announced yesterday (August 3) was immediately attacked by politicians representing the area.

Cumbria County Council leader, Eddie Martin, said: “The Government must surely step in to ensure nuclear skills and jobs are retained in West Cumbria for the longer term future of the industry and for the regeneration of Cumbria as a whole.

“The most effective way of doing this is for the Government to immediately confirm it will commission and build a new Sellafield MOX plant that will serve modern needs, as soon as possible, not least because other countries, such as Russia, are building MOX plants and the commercial opportunities may well bypass us if we are not quick off the mark.”

The council’s cabinet member responsible for nuclear issue, Tim Knowles, added: “We always expected this MOX plant to be decommissioned, but our expectation and hope was that it would happen after a new MOX plant was installed.”

According to the local authority there is sufficient plutonium in the UK stockpile to supply two new nuclear reactors, of the type currently considered for construction in the UK, with 30% MOX fuel loading for 60 years.

Luke Walsh

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