Thorp challenge given go-ahead: Permission granted for judicial review

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The Independent Online
GREENPEACE and Lancashire County Council yesterday won the right legally to challenge the Government's authorisation for the Thorp nuclear reprocessing plant.

Mr Justice John Laws allowed a judicial review hearing which will take place early next month in the High Court and last five days. The environmental pressure group and the council argue that ministers should have ordered a public inquiry before granting the controversial pounds 2.8bn plant authorisation last month to discharge radioactive pollution into the environment.

British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), which owns and operates the plant at Sellafield, west Cumbria, and Greenpeace both said they were pleased with the outcome of yesterday's hearing. Neither the Government nor BNFL opposed a judicial review.

The company said it intended to start operations on Monday - the date agreed under the authorisation granted on 15 December.

The plan is to move 3 tons of spent fuel from a storage pond to a feed pond, where it will remain for 30 days while instruments are checked and callibrated. After that, it will be cut into small pieces and dissolved in acid to separate the reusable uranium and plutonium from highly radioactive waste material.

Greenpeace said it was satisfied with BNFL's undertaking that this would not cause major contamination.

Greenpeace's executive director, Peter Melchett, said: 'I'm delighted. We got what we want - a judicial review which will take place quickly, before Thorp starts contaminating operations.'

If Greenpeace loses and decides to appeal, it will seek a legal block on further operations until a final decision from the courts. Thorp was completed two years ago but has been standing idle, awaiting authorisation. BNFL claims the delay is costing pounds 2m a week.