Letter: Thorp is a safe and profitable nuclear reprocessing plant

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The Independent Online
JAMES BUCHAN ('Throwing good money after bad', Review, 14 November) bases his arguments on the assumption that the uranium and plutonium recovered from spent fuel via Thorp is 'worthless or worse'. It is an astonishing assumption. The used fuel to be reprocessed in the first 10 years of Thorp's operation would be enough to supply the UK with all its electricity needs for nearly two years. Moreover, Thorp will unlock this potential while:

1 Managing nuclear waste safely and 'effectively protecting human health, the safety of the food chain, and the environment generally' (HM Inspectorate of Pollution).

2 Making a profit of pounds 500m for BNFL, which is owned by the nation, and bring in large financial and employment benefit to the UK.

3 Returning the waste products together with the reusable products from overseas spent fuel to their nation of origin.

Mr Buchan alleges that 'most countries have stopped building nuclear stations'. In fact, 32 countries worldwide are currently building 70 nuclear power stations.

Reprocessing at Thorp will result in less nuclear waste than the direct disposal of fuel and the mining of fresh uranium to replace the energy potential lost. Furthermore, all contracts with overseas customers signed since 1976 stipulate that the waste will go back to its country of origin. It is up to each country to find a disposal site - reprocessing at Thorp will not enable them to duck this issue.

On the question of plutonium, if BNFL's customers do not want plutonium back from Thorp, they can opt to receive Mixed Oxide Fuel - where plutonium and uranium are mixed together for burning in conventional reactors.

It is a pity that, despite our putting all these points to Mr Buchan as we opened our doors to him at Sellafield, he has chosen to ignore them.

In a separate story, 'Thorp seeks sale to South Korea' (14 November), Geoffrey Lean suggests that BNFL is trying to sell plutonium to South Korea. He is incorrect. BNFL is not negoitating to supply plutonium to Korea. BNFL offers nuclear fuel-cycle services worldwide, including South Korea.

John Guinness

Chairman

British Nuclear Fuels plc

London SW1

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