Letter: Cost of Mox

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your report "Sellafield privatisation set to raise up to pounds 3bn" (24 October) relating to the Environment Agency decision in favour of the operation of the Sellafield Mox Plant requires some clarification.

Friends of the Earth's claim that mixed oxide (uranium and plutonium) fuel increases the risk of nuclear proliferation is unfounded. Foreign Office Minister Derek Fatchett said in a 1997 parliamentary answer that "the proliferation risks posed by the use of Mox fuel by European Union countries and its transport from EU suppliers to Japan are assessed as being extremely low. Indeed, the use of Mox fuel reduces proliferation risks by gradually reducing stockpiles."

Similarly, the FoE is misleading about the wastes resulting from Mox fuel. Wastes arising from reprocessing Mox fuel can be handled in a similar manner to wastes arising from spent uranium fuel, using existing plants at Sellafield. They do not pose any particular handling problems.

While Mox is more expensive than fresh uranium fuel, the vice-president of Kansai Electric in Japan has said that the increase in total per-kilowatt- hour cost of burning Mox will be less than 0.8 per cent. But there are other considerations, such as security of energy supply, making the best use of the world's energy resources and realising the energy potential of the plutonium that are also important. Ultimately of course, any decision to use Mox is for our customers and many have already indicated that they intend to do so.


Head of Mox Business

British Nuclear Fuels plc

Warrington, Cheshire