Day after Sellafield plant is shut, Government told to build another - Science - News - The Independent

Day after Sellafield plant is shut, Government told to build another

The plant has been a complete technological failure, managing to produce only a little fuel

The Government is being pressured to build a new nuclear-fuel plant at Sellafield in Cumbria, just a day after the decision to close a failing plant that has so far cost British taxpayers £1.34bn.

Local politicians and trade unions want the Government to agree to a new mixed-oxide (Mox) fuel plant costing up to £6bn, in the wake of the announcement on Wednesday to close the controversial Sellafield Mox Plant just nine years after it was opened.

The Nuclear Decomissioning Authority, which operates the Sellafield site, said it had decided to close the existing Mox plant because of a lack of orders from Japanese power companies following the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant. That facility was crippled by a tsunami after a huge earthquake struck Japan on 11 March.

Ministers' preferred option on dealing with the problem of the huge mountain of civilian plutonium at Sellafield – the biggest stockpile in the world – is to build a second Mox fuel plant. The plan is for the plant to convert much of this waste plutonium into fuel that can be burned in a new generation of nuclear reactors to be built in Britian. Trade unions said that a quick decision on a second plant would help to save an estimated 800 jobs. The local Labour MP Jamie Reed, a former Sellafield employee, said he intends to press the Government for a decision on a second Mox plant as soon as the House of Commons returns from its summer recess.

Mr Reed said: "I am working for nothing less than for Government to announce its intentions to proceed with a new Mox plant at Sellafield.

"This is without doubt wholly within the national interest."

The existing Sellafield Mox Plant cannot be adapted to the task because it was licensed to make Mox fuel for foreign nuclear reactors, particularly in Japan. The plant has been a complete technological failure, managing to produce only a tiny fraction of the Mox fuel it was supposed to generate.

But one option being proposed by Martin Forwood, of the pressure group Core (Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment), is to use the existing Mox plant to convert the plutonium mountain into "low specification" Mox . This form of Mox would not be used as nuclear fuel, but would be encased in canisters and buried in a long-term repository.

"It would be cheaper to use the existing Sellafield Mox Plant to make low-spec Mox for safer, long-term storage of plutonium than building an entirely new plant to make Mox fuel that would be more expensive to use than conventional uranium fuel," Mr Forward said. "It is a golden opportunity for the Government and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to consider this option."

A Sellafield spokesman said: "Disposal would foreclose the economic recovery of plutonium as a future energy source. All other countries with a stockpile appear to be planning to convert their excess plutonium into Mox for reuse."

What is plutonium?

Plutonium is formed as a by-product of nuclear fission – the splitting of the uranium atoms in a nuclear reactor. The element comes in several forms, or isotopes. The most important is plutonium-239, which has a half-life of 24,100 years, which means it takes this time for half of its radioactivity to decrease.

Plutonium-239 is the most useful form of the element in nuclear weapons. One kilogram of plutonium-239 can release the energy equivalent to the explosion of 21,000 tons of TNT. Plutonium is highly dangerous when inhaled or ingested. It emits alpha radiation, which can damage the DNA of cells and cause cancer. Britain has the biggest civilian stockpile of plutonium in the world – 113 tons.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week