He has blocked an inquiry, called for at last year's party conference and backed by the NEC, into whether to shut down the plants' main activity, the reprocessing of used nuclear fuel.
The move comes at a time when almost all of Britain's reprocessing capacity is closed for safety reasons following accidents. The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate is insisting that the Thorp plant at Sellafield in Cumbria and three plants at Dounreay, Scotland, should not be started up until it is satisfied they can be operated properly. Only one plant is still working.
Sellafield and Dounreay have appalling accident records and they are responsible for the greatest part of the pollution from Britain's nuclear industry. The economics of reprocessing are also increasingly in doubt. A report last month suggested that Thorp is likely to lose money.
When the inquiry called for at the Labour conference failed to materialise the party's Socialist Environment and Resources Association wrote to the Trade and Industry Secretary, Margaret Beckett, asking for it to be carried out as soon as possible. Her junior minister, John Battle, told the group that the inquiry would not take place, and that the decision on how to deal with used fuel was a matter for the industry.Reuse content