A Thorp In Our Sides
As I've often written, I have an intimate connection
with Britain's nuclear industry - I've been a lifelong opponent of it, even going as far as participating in the Windscale Inquiry back in 1978. This was an Application by British Nuclear Fuels Limited for outline planning permission for a 'plant - now known as THORP*
- for reprocessing irradiated oxide nuclear fuels and support site services; at their Windscale and Calder Works, Sellafield, Cumbria, commonly known as the Windscale Inquiry
.Two years ago
I responded to a lengthy comment by my frequent commentator and now good friend Miko by outlining, with many links, the credibility of the British anti-nuclear lobby.
In passing, I also mentioned my involvement with the Green (né Ecology) Party. This is an even stronger political force as an interview
this week with party leader and parliamentary candidate Caroline Lucas makes abundantly clear.
I have another topical reason for returning to this theme.
Four years ago, a week after a massive radiation leak
, I linked to a report
that the THORP was expected to soon shut forever.
Well it didn't, but it might now because it has major problems
.The company that runs the Thorp nuclear reprocessing plant admitted that it may have to close for a number of years owing to a series of technical problems.The huge £1.8bn plant at Sellafield imports spent nuclear fuel from around the world and returns it to countries as new reactor fuel. But a series of catastrophic technical failures with associated equipment means Thorp could be mothballed at a cost of millions of pounds.Under strict orders from the government's safety watchdog, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, the plant's operators, Sellafield Ltd, is expected to have little option but to mothball the reprocessing plant for at least four years.Closure of Thorp for any length of time could cost the company and government hundreds of millions of pounds and embarrass the resurgent nuclear industry, which is embarking on an ambitious programme of new reactors for Britain. Thorp is contracted to reprocess more than 700 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel, most of it for Germany, which could sue if Sellafield does not return it on time.Construction of Thorp began in the 1970s and was completed in 1994. The £1.8bn plant went into operation in 1997 with the assurance from its then owners, British Nuclear Fuels Ltd, that it would reprocess 7,000 tonnes of spent fuel in its first 10 years of operation, two-thirds of the business coming from abroad.To date, Thorp has completed about 6,000 tonnes of its initial order book and is now, largely as a result of the broken evaporators, limited to processing 200 tonnes a year – about a sixth of its original design capacity.
Why is there never any good news from the nuclear industry?
.......................................*Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant