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)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Life and Style
fashion

News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news

Video: It is the type of thing no parent wants to hear

Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
film
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

Recruitment Genius: Network Manager / Senior Network Engineer

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning internet, do...

Opilio Recruitment: Business Development Manager

Competitive: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity has arisen for a Bu...

Recruitment Genius: Systems / Network Administrator

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning internet, do...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunity for someone l...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game