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Is this the end?

Byline: By Tony Henderson

Claims that the Thorp reprocessing plant at Sellafield in Cumbria is to close within the next seven years were welcomed by campaigners last night.

Greenpeace said it had been informed that an announcement by the Government closing the plant in 2010 would be made during the passage of legislation in the autumn enacting the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

However, the Government said yesterday there were no new proposals for the plant and any claims about its future were speculative.

Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment said that when Thorp was opened in 1994 it was then claimed that the plant would deal with 7,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel, from orders already secured, within the first 10 years of operation.

But CORE's spokesperson said that in the haste to get the plant open in the early 1990s, the increasing worldwide trend against reprocessing and the dwindling prospects for new contracts was ignored. The spokesperson added: "We welcome any plan that moves Sellafield away from reprocessing and towards clean-up work." British Nuclear Fuels said yesterday that Thorp has an order book which currently extends to 2010.

"Although the focus of the Sellafield site is shifting from commercial reprocessing to clean- up and managing the historic legacy, BNFL has made it clear that all existing reprocessing contracts will be honoured," said a spokeswoman.

"Any new business for Thorp will depend upon the wishes of our customers, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority which will assume ownership of the site in 2005 and ultimately the sanction of Government."

Greenpeace urged BNFL to bring Thorp's closure forward by allowing British Energy to store spent fuel from its nuclear plants, rather than forcing them to reprocess it.

Greenpeace also said that it would be watching BNFL's clean-up work at the Sellafield site very carefully to ensure it does not lead to an increase in radioactive discharges into the Irish Sea.

A spokesman for the Department of Trade said there would have to be a public consultation if any new contract proposals were put forward for Thorp after 2010. Shadow trade and industry secretary Tim Yeo said: "The future of the whole British nuclear industry has been undermined by ministerial dithering and by the Government's refusal to make clear whether it believes nuclear power has a role to play in meeting Britain's energy needs."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Aug 27, 2003
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