Thursday, December 13, 2001

On top of the Calder Hall blow, BNFL has to "mothball" a key plant designed to play a vital part in dealing with the big backlog of the site's old nuclear waste legacy.

Drypac has been constructed at a cost of 400 million but commissioning of the new plant will be held up indefinitely as BNFL takes a fresh look at the way in which it will clear up the backlog.

"Drypac is taking a breather," say the company.

But completion of the expensive project is bringing another loss of jobs on the construction site, starting just a few days before Christmas.

All told well over a hundred jobs will go between two companies - Balfour Kilpatrick whose contracts on the project are finished.

The first batch of jobs go on December 21, with the rest following at monthly intervals until March except for a maintenance crew.

Grant Cattanach, regional organiser for the AEEU, said: "It is unfortunate, especially coming on top of what is an horrendous jobs situation in West Cumbria. We can only hope things improve on the Sellafield construction site, and elsewhere, in the New Year."

Meanwhile, all BNFL employees who have been working on Drypac are being moved to other sites at Sellafield. Most of the agency staff will also be transferred to other work depending on how their skills match up. The actual building work has come to an end and that is the nature of the job. "BNFL is not making anybody redundant," said spokesman Nigel Monckton.

BNFL denied speculation that Drypac was being held up by design faults. "Some technical issues have come up as a result of our increased understanding of the waste," said Mr Monckton.

He added: "The building has been completed but we are holding up commissioning to make sure the plant fits in with the historic waste management strategy we are drawing up. We have to make sure the plant does exactly what has to be done for dealing with this waste before we commit ourselves to anything irreversible. We definitely need Drypac, it is taking a breather."