Thorp plant 'likely to be approved': Ministers inclined to allow pounds 2.8bn nuclear reprocessing site to open

THE GOVERNMENT yesterday gave its strongest signal to date that it will give the go-ahead to British Nuclear Fuels' controversial pounds 2.8bn thermal oxide reprocessing plant (Thorp) in Cumbria.

At the start of a second round of public consultations over the plant, officials said environment and agriculture ministers were now 'minded' to give Thorp the green light.

A statement of government policy, also published yesterday, concludes: 'A positive case for the operation of Thorp has been well made.' This document, along with two papers from BNFL on the environmental and economic issues surrounding the plant, is to form the basis for public comment up to the deadline on 4 October.

The officials said ministers' minds 'remain open', but added that they were now inclined to allow the plant to open.

Labour's environment spokesman, Chris Smith, condemned the consultations as 'a facade' designed to avoid legal difficulties: 'What is the point of consulting if you have already made up your mind?'

He said the public was being deprived of information and urged the Government to make BNFL publish a study of Thorp's economics.

The BNFL documents include no clear comparison of the cost of dry storage of nuclear waste and the cost of reprocessing. Nor is there any assessment of the potential revenue for BNFL if it offered to store customers' radioactive waste. In 1990, the Government's radioactive waste management advisory committee concluded there were 'no compelling waste management reasons for reprocessing oxide fuel early, later or at all'.

In June, the Government appeared split over Thorp. Tim Eggar, Minister for Energy, said the plant was economic and there were no worries over nuclear weapons proliferation. However, John Gummer, the Secretary of State for the Environment, said he and Gillian Shephard, the Minister of Agriculture, had to consider wider issues such as economics and the danger of nuclear proliferation.

Yesterday, officials said the ministers had decided such wider issues were 'not relevant'. It was also confirmed that ministers do not plan to seek an independent audit of BNFL's economic justification for Thorp.

The Government's final decision is not expected before Christmas, depending on the volume of comments received between now and October. Only then will ministers decide whether to accede to demands for a public inquiry.

Dr Patrick Green, radiation spokesman for Friends of the Earth, said yesterday: 'The sound of minds closing echoes around Whitehall.' Greenpeace is considering legal steps to ensure the consultation is 'more than just a sham'. It may seek a judicial review if there is no public inquiry.

Thorp was completed in March last year. BNFL claims the delay in opening the plant is costing it pounds 2m a week and is behind the loss of 3,200 jobs.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
news
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
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: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick