Thorp approved with tighter discharge limit: Gummer rules out public inquiry into pounds 2.8bn nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield

THE GOVERNMENT yesterday gave its blessing to British Nuclear Fuel's new pounds 2.8bn thermal oxide reprocessing plant (Thorp) at Sellafield in West Cumbria. But a carefully worded statement to the House of Commons by John Gummer, the Secretary of State for the Environment, left several issues still unresolved.

Speaking on behalf of the Department of the Environment and the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Gummer announced that he was tightening the limits on the amount of radioactivity which Thorp could discharge to the environment.

Thorp will not now start operating until early next year, pending a 28-day delay during which BNFL can appeal against the new limits. Even when Thorp does start, all that will happen is that fuel will be moved from one storage pond to another, while the company spends a further 30 days checking instruments and equipment.

Yesterday's statement, which marks the conclusion of a saga dating back to the mid-1970s, came after a second round of public consultations in which the Government received 42,500 responses, 63 per cent of them opposing Thorp. Although nearly 30 per cent of individual respondents and 85 local authorities had called for a public inquiry into the project, Mr Gummer rejected this option yesterday. He concluded that 'there is a sufficient balance of advantage in favour of the operation of Thorp'. The discharges 'would not lead to unacceptable risks to human health or the environment', he said.

The 'degree of furtiveness' which shrouded the way the Government reached its decision was attacked in a muted statement by Chris Smith, Labour's environment spokesman. Mr Smith stopped short however of opposing the Government's decision, nor did he call for a public inquiry. That demand came from Tony Benn who as energy minister in 1978 had been responsible for starting the Thorp project.

John Guinness, the chairman of British Nuclear Fuels, said: 'Today's decision is good news for the Thorp workforce, it's good news for BNFL, and it's good news for Britain. It is a major step forward in allowing us to provide a first-class service to our customers and earn billions of pounds of valuable overseas revenue for the UK.'

Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth yesterday said that they would immediately challenge yesterday's decision in the courts.

More significant for the long-term future of the plant, however, is that British Nuclear Fuels has still not clinched a pounds 13bn deal with its main British customer, Nuclear Electric, 18 months after contracts were supposed to have been signed.

Greenpeace will apply for a judicial review of the Government's decision in the English courts. The organisation is expected to argue that a public inquiry ought to have been held into plans to open the plant.

Friends of the Earth will take Ioannis Paleokassis, the European Commissioner responsible for the environment and nuclear safety, to the European Court of Justice, alleging that the commission has failed to enforce the European Union's nuclear safety legislation.

Nuclear industry insiders say that yesterday's decision will not speed up the pounds 13bn deal with Nuclear Electric and that although BNFL made a new offer last week, negotiations are expected to drag on for some time to come. The entire package involves the supply of fresh fuel and reprocessing services for the first-generation Magnox reactors as well as reprocessing of fuel at Thorp.

(Photograph omitted)

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home