Thursday, August 09, 2001

Hopes that Sellafield will get a modern nuclear reactor to replace Calder Hall have brightened.

It could cost up to 2 billion but would provide a massive boost to the local economy with the creation of several hundred jobs.

While BNFL and the workforce wait anxiously to hear whether the Mox will plant will get the government's go-ahead before the autumn, the Department of Trade and Industry announced: "There are prospects for new (nuclear) build to be economic."

The DTI made its admission in a first response to Prime Minister Tony Blair's wide-ranging energy review.

Apart from meeting the country's future energy needs, the DTI said that having no nuclear power stations would lead to an increase in carbon dioxide greenhouse gases.

Nuclear trade unions are set to lobby nationally and locally for the building of new nuclear reactors as part of the energy review.

They say that at Sellafield a new reactor will help sustain the site's long-term viability, providing employment for hundreds of construction workers and later hundreds more BNFL permanent jobs to operate the station.

Calder Hall, with its four electricity-producing reactors, will be closed in five years' time.

Site GMB convenor John Kane warned: "If we don't start moving now we will miss the boat."

Leading Tory councillor Mike Graham, who first mooted the idea, said: "It would be an economic boon to this area - and the time is right to start.

"The government should give Sellafield first priority for building a a reactor."

Publicly, BNFL remain tight-lipped on whether it wants to build new nuclear reactors, even though the seven Magnox stations it owns are due to close in 2010.

Mr Graham criticised the company.

"BNFL should come off the fence, stop adopting such a coy attitude and give its wholehearted backing," he said.

Mr Kane said: "We must go along the lines of replacement rather than new build on nuclear sites which already have a licence.

"The last thing we want is another Mox scenario, where we spent 460 million on a plant and still can't get it licensed.

"Just look at Thorp, it took 17 years to finish from conception. We can't afford to wait that long.

"It could take only five or six years to build a nuclear reactor but we have to start now because there will be planning permission to get, a public inquiry to go through and maybe a legal challenge from the anti-nukes to overcome.