Government on the spot over Sellafield's reprocessing plant

The 18-year gestation of British Nuclear Fuels' Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP) is almost at an end. Only one hurdle seemingly remains - the authorisation to dispose of its wastes. Opponents see this as the last chance to scrap what they regard as an environmental and financial white elephant. BNF's original rationale for THORP has grown increasingly threadbare since it was proposed in the mid-1970s - and the Government may now be forced into a last-minute rethink of the consequences of allowing it to be commissioned.

BNF won approval to build THORP at its Sellafield - then Windscale - site in Cumbria after the 1977 Windscale enquiry. The plant is now complete - five years behind schedule and £1.5 billion over its original budget. Now, at the eleventh hour, there are signs that the Government is starting to recoil from the financial implications of commissioning the plant.

Sellafield already reprocesses spent fuel from the UK's first generation M

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