Inquiry looms into nuclear fuel plant

 

Steve Connor
Monday 18 April 2011 00:00
Comments

Calls for an official inquiry into the financial evidence used to justify the construction a £1.34bn nuclear fuel plant at Sellafield in Cumbria will be treated seriously, the National Audit Office has told The Independent.

Michael Meacher, an environment minister in the previous Labour government, who reluctantly gave the go-ahead for the uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (Mox) plant to be licensed in 2001, said he intends to write to the Audit Office demanding an investigation into the evidence that led to the decision.

A spokesman for the National Audit Office said the Sellafield Mox Plant, which has cost more than the 2012 Olympic Stadium to build and a further £800m in commissioning and operating costs, is not on its programme of inquiries, but that the office would give Mr Meacher's request "serious consideration".

A heavily redacted report by the management consultancy Arthur D Little, prepared at the time when the licence was being considered, claimed that the Sellafield Mox Plant would earn about £150m in foreign revenue over its lifetime by fabricating Mox fuel for mostly Japanese nuclear power companies.

However, nearly 10 years after the plant was licensed to operate, it has produced only 13.8 tonnes of Mox fuel, instead of the stated target of 120 tonnes a year. None of the fuel that has been made is destined for Japan, which was supposed to become the main market for Mox.

Despite the failures, the Mox plant at Sellafield is due to be kept open at least until the end of the decade, at a cost to the British taxpayer of nearly £90m a year. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which runs the Sellafield site, said that the first shipment of Mox fuel to Japan will not take place until the end of the decade.

However, the nuclear crisis in Japan has cast a shadow over even this extended delay in the schedule. Some commentators now doubt whether the plant will ship any Mox at all to Japan, contrary to evidence presented to the government when it was licensed in 2001 – five years after the plant was built during the previous Conservative government.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in