Sellafield MOX plant under attack

The controversial mixed oxide fuel (MOX) plant at BNFL's Sellafield works is being forced to subcontract reprocessing work to rivals in France and Belgium because of commissioning problems, according to pressure group Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE).

CORE claims that BNFL has had to subcontract work for Swiss nuclear operator NOK. Two other orders were subcontracted out last year.

The MOX plant won the go-ahead from Ministers in 2001 on the basis that it stood to deliver a net positive value of £216 million (ENDS Report 321, pp 15-16 ). Most of this depended on BNFL securing business with Japan - but so far this has failed to materialise. The £470 million cost of the plant was written off as a "sunk cost" in the justification decision.

CORE said that "with its reputation already in tatters, the kindest thing is to put [the MOX plant] out of its misery and close it down right away."

The group also points out that BNFL's THORP plant has reprocessed 5,000 tonnes of spent fuel in its first ten years - 2,000 tonnes less than originally planned. The plant's "baseload" period has been extended by four years.

Post-baseload contracts have failed to materialise, leaving only scaled-down commitments with German utilities and a contract with British Energy, secured at a knock-down price as part of the Government's rescue package for the stricken generator (ENDS Report 335, pp 37-38 ).

Both the THORP and MOX plants will pass to the new state-owned Nuclear Decommissioning Authority next year.

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