Built at a cost of pounds 1.85bn, the new Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (Thorp) at the company's Sellafield site in Cumbria has been standing idle for months because of delays by HM Inspectorate of Pollution in issuing official authorisation for the radioactive discharges Thorp will produce. HMIP issued a draft pending an eight-week consultation period last month, but the inspectorate had already received 30,000 letters of protest before the consultation period started.
In the November issue of the company's staff newspaper, the chairman of BNFL, John Guinness, condemned 'the anti-nuclear lobby which has been orchestrating a letters campaign in order to distort the right and proper process of public consultation.'
The Thorp Division's monthly operational briefing for 16 December, notes that 'approximately 100 letters per day are being received by HMIP objecting to the new Site Discharge Authorisation', and only a few letters of support have been sent.
The briefing document adds that 'the Company needs its employees to write to HMIP expressing their support for Thorp' and gives the name and address of the official to whom they should write.
Alan Irving, spokesman for BNFL, said: 'It is not something we had intended to do but the situation has become so unbalanced . . . that, to redress the balance, it is only right and proper for BNFL employees to express their views in support. It is up to individuals if they want to write to HMIP.'