Top scientist backs £3bn Sellafield plant, despite £2bn failure on same site

 

British taxpayers should spend up to £3bn on a new facility for reprocessing nuclear waste at Sellafield, despite the site in Cumbria already having a similar plant which has cost nearly £2bn and is labelled one of the biggest industrial failures in British history.

This is the conclusion of a report by scientists which recommends a brand-new, plutonium-uranium mixed oxide (MOX) plant at Sellafield as part of Britain's nuclear "renaissance" to build a suite of nuclear power stations that could burn MOX fuel as well as conventional uranium.

The current Sellafield MOX plant cost £440m to build and the nuclear industry has squandered a further £1.5bn of taxpayers' money in operating costs and upgrades. Designed to produce 120 tonnes of MOX fuel a year for export, it has only managed 15 tonnes over nearly a decade of sub-standard operation, which was labelled by one former government minister as a catastrophic and comprehensive failure.

Despite these shortcomings, yesterday's report said that building a new reprocessing facility would allow Britain to recycle the current stockpile of 112 tonnes of plutonium left over from other reprocessed nuclear waste.

Anti-nuclear campaigners said yesterday the plan would generate more nuclear waste than it eliminates, increase costs and create new risks of nuclear proliferation.

Sir David King, the government's former chief scientific adviser and one of the authors of yesterday's report, vigorously defended the need to build more nuclear power stations, despite the disaster at the Fukushima power plant in Japan, where plutonium has leaked from the MOX fuel used in one of the four stricken reactors.

He said that doing nothing with nuclear waste is not an option and his preferred choice would be to build a new MOX reprocessing plant at Sellafield that would fabricate fresh nuclear fuel from spent fuel mixed with waste plutonium.

"Currently, the UK has a window of opportunity to deal with its nuclear material and spent fuel management and to maximise the value of its existing assets," Sir David said. "The renaissance in new nuclear build creates an advantageous way of using these legacy materials as fuel for new nuclear power plants."

Building a reprocessing plant to produce MOX fuel from nuclear waste could reduce costs to the taxpayer and create billions of pounds of economic opportunities through new skills and jobs as well as reducing carbon emissions, he added.

"The potential benefits of examining nuclear materials and spent fuel stocks as a potential asset and managing these alongside new-build reactors, through an all-encompassing UK nuclear power policy, are clarified through this investigation."

Professor Laurance Williams, an adviser on the report who was also head of the government's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate when it approved the current Sellafield MOX plant, said yesterday that the reasons why it has failed to live up to expectations were too complicated to explain, but that they were to do with its flawed design.

[The following paragraph has been corrected since publication due to incorrect information supplied by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority at the time of writing ]

The Sellafield Mox Plant has not shipped any fuel to Japan since the plant was opened in 2002. The one and only shipment of Mox from Sellafield in 1999 from an earlier "demonstration facility" had to be returned because quality control data relating to the MOX fuel pellets had been falsified by workers at British Nuclear Fuels Plc, which has since been abolished after a failed attempt to privatise the company. Sellafield is now operated by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

Shaun Burnie, an independent nuclear consultant working for Greenpeace Germany, said he had warned the government that the Sellafield MOX plant was flawed and would not perform as promised by the nuclear industry.

"It's a very sorry tale for the taxpayer because this facility is burning a hole in the NDA's budget. It's also obscene that people are talking of building another plant because MOX fuel makes reactors more dangerous and risks nuclear proliferation because of the ease of extracting weapons-useable plutonium from MOX fuel," Mr Burnie said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
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

English Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English Teacher - Saffron ...

Primary Supply Teacher - Northants

£90 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Primary School Supply Teache...

Maths Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Maths Teacher - Saffro...

Chemistry Teacher - Top School in Malaysia - January Start

£18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain