Sellafield MOX plant is worth over £200 million

If put to use, the Sellafield MOX plant would earn £216 million for the UK, says a new independent report commissioned by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

According to European law regarding practices involving ionising radiation, before the MOX plant – whose purpose is to manufacture a mixed oxide fuel made from uranium and plutonium for use in nuclear power stations around the world – can start operations, BNFL needs to prove that the benefits of the plant outweigh any environmental problems. The raw material for the plant is reprocessed mainly on site at the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) at Sellafield.

The most likely threats to the level of profits of the plant are if there are any initial delay to commissioning the plant or a delay in the start of deliveries of MOX fuel to Japan, says Arthur D Little, the company that compiled the report, which admits that it has tended to be conservative in their estimates for the future economics of the MOX plant. The findings of the report are also based on the continuation of THORP contracts with Japan, Germany, Switzerland and Sweden.

“This report shows our economic case stands up to rigorous scrutiny and clearly demonstrates that the plant is in the national interest,” said BNFL Chief Executive Norman Askew. “It is now important that [the Sellafield MOX plant] is given the go ahead as soon as this further consultation is over. The plant is ready, our workforce is ready and we now want to deliver on the commitments we have made to our customers.”

In 1998, following two rounds of public consultations, the Environment Agency stated that the full operation of the MOX plant should go ahead. The issue was then passed on to the former Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) for consideration. The Government’s provisional view, in 1999, was that full operation of the plant would be justified, but that a final decision would depend on the economic assessment of the practice and on the market for MOX fuel.

DEFRA is inviting comments on the report. These should be sent by 24 August to: Claire Herdman, RAS Division, Zone 4/F6, Ashdown House, 123 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6DE; fax 020 7944 6340; or emailed to: [email protected]. Following the consultation, the Secretaries of State for Health and DEFRA will decide whether BNFL’s proposed MOX manufacture is justified.

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