Thursday, October 18, 2001

The Sellafield Mox facility is not expected to be started for at least another six weeks.

Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have launched a joint judicial review challenge into the government's approval for Mox. They claim the government approval was "illegal".

But it will be six weeks before time can be allocated at the High Court for an anticipated three-day legal hearing.

But BNFL appear to be taking the view that they can carry on commissioning the Mox facility regardless of any legal challenge.

Spokeswoman Ali Dunlop said yesterday: "The current legal challenge is not affecting our commissioning programme.

"When we introduce plutonium is up to the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) and the only reason they would say 'No' would only be on the grounds of safety.

"Once the regulator is happy we will introduce plutonium.

"The legal challenge is not to BNFL but is to the government.''

If plutonium is used inside the plant and then a judge ruled the plant should not operate, its subsequent decommissioning or clean-up would be a vast cost to the taxpayer.

l Meanwhile BNFL has angrily rejected claims by anti-nuclear group CORE that it had tried to introduce plutonium into Mox before the judicial review.

BNFL spokesman Jamie Reed said: "CORE needs to get its facts straight, what we have done is to bring plutonium into the Sellafield Mox plant in a sealed can in order to perform calibration and function testing.

"Following completion of the test the sealed can was returned to the Thorp product store and SMP has been returned to pre-test conditions.

"It is therefore completely incorrect to talk of 'contamination' and utterly ridiculous to call us irresponsible. This activity has been conducted with the full authorisation of the NII.''