Jean McSorley: A staggering waste of taxpayers' money

Tuesday 07 April 2009 00:00
Comments

Greenpeace's long-held opposition to the Sellafield Mox Plant (SMP) is rooted in its opposition to the global trade of weapons-usable plutonium for fuel in nuclear reactors. The increased risks to global security from proliferation and use of nuclear materials were vividly underscored at the weekend by Barack Obama – risks that are inherent with the proposed expansion of nuclear power.

The Sellafield plant is designed to produce mixed oxide plutonium and uranium (Mox) as a fuel for reactors, the use of which results in highly radioactive spent fuel. Underpinning the whole manufacture and trade in plutonium is the reprocessing of the spent fuel – one of the most hazardous parts of the nuclear chain.

The Mox plant has been plagued by financial and safety concerns since it was completed in 1996. Although the industry claimed the benefits of building the plant would be many, we were unconvinced. So much so, that in 2001, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth took the Government to the High Court claiming that the decision to allow British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL) to begin operation of the plant at Sellafield was unlawful as it would incur a financial loss and the predicted £200m income relied on customers that did not exist. BNFL only had contracts for less than 10 per cent of the business it hoped to attract.

However, the judge rejected the challenge and later that year it began operation. Since then the plant has been a technical, financial and political failure and comes at a time when the industry is asking the Government to make a decision on the "justification" of new reactors.

The SMP has been a staggering waste of taxpayers' money, and we doubt that these will be the full costs of this sorry saga. Just imagine what the renewable sector could have done with a subsidy like that. The failure of the Mox plant is another reminder of why the nuclear industry has become notorious for making wildly exaggerated claims about its benefits and precisely why it should treated with scepticism and mistrust.

The writer is a Greenpeace nuclear adviser

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.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ 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.

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.

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

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 inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in