Whitehaven News

The Whitehaven News


Thursday, April 05, 2001

SELLAFIELD's much-delayed Mox plant will be back in the spotlight for the next two months.

The government has launched the fourth and final public consultation exercise before deciding whether to give the plant a licence to operate.

The plant was built four years ago for 300 million but losses caused by delays to its opening has seen the cost soar to 462 million.

The consultation will find out what the public think about BNFL's revised business case. The government will then decide whether plutonium recycling should be allowed.

BNFL is desperate to get the thumbs up by July - the cut-off month for meeting at least the first of its contractual obligations to manufacture Mox fuel for European customers.

The eight-week long consultation process is due to end on May 23.

Chief executive Norman Askew said: "The regulatory process has been going on for over four years, during which time there have been three public consultations. We look forward to an early conclusion.

"The project remains economically and commercially justified. The Environment Agency has already concluded that the environmental impact of operating the plant will be negligible.

"There is a robust economic case. We have reinforced our market position and secured further customer commitment.

"We have letters of support from existing and potential customers in all of the main Mox fuel markets."

The Sort out Sellafield campaign which recently went to Downing Street on a Mox lobby described the consultation as "a substantial step forward in achieving full commissioning" of the plant.

Copeland MP Jack Cunningham, who heads SOS, said: "I am sure all those who work at Sellafield will regard this process as excellent news as will all those with the long-term interests of West Cumbria and its economy at heart."

BNFL submitted its new business case following the Mox fuel scandal which caused world-wide embarrassment for the company, jeopardising lucrative orders due to loss of confidence.

The fuel data falsifications took place in the Sellafield demonstration facility which was meant to prove the manufacturing process for the full-scale production plant.

Paul Noon, general secretary of Sellafield's biggest union (IPMS), which represents 2,500 scientists and engineers, said: "Sellafield is Cumbria's biggest employer and the region is on its knees because of the impact of foot and mouth on agriculture and tourism.

"All the indications are that this plant meets the necessary environmental and industrial criteria and deserves the go-ahead.