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.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?