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Monday, 28 July 2014

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Staff disappointed by plans for plant

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END OF AN ERA: The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has announced to staff, stakeholders and trades union representatives that the Thorp plant at Sellafield is due to stop reprocessing in 2017

By Natalie Chapples

REPROCESSING work at the Sellafield site will stop by 2018.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority announced to staff, stakeholders and trades union representatives on Wednesday the Thorp plant is due to stop reprocessing in 2017.

Although a large proportion of the 10,000 strong Sellafield workforce is employed in reprocessing, the anticipated number of job losses is not expected to be substantial due to more focus on removing Sellafield’s high-hazard risks and increased NDA financial resources to accelerate decommissioning projects.

It is also possible the government will eventually give the go-ahead for a second Mox plutonium recycling plant, which will create thousands of new jobs and absorb losses.

Thorp reprocessing was due to finish in 2010 but the serious liquor leak in 2005 has extended closure until 2018.

A spokesman for the NDA said: “Our strategic review has concluded that completing the Thorp contracts remains the most viable and cost-effective option.

“Any remaining fuels will be placed into storage pending disposal in a geological disposal facility.”

However, there is a hint that the plant might close earlier if it fails to perform reliably.

The spokesman added: “We will continue to examine options to reprocess less than the full contracted amount of spent fuel in Thorp in case it is needed.

“We have also considered reprocessing more than the contracted amount of spent fuel in Thorp. This has included extended AGR reprocessing and taking on new business.

“Our view is that neither of these options are credible and would not be cost-effective compared to the current strategy.”

Mike Graham, national secretary of Prospect, which represents a number of workers at the site, said: “The announcement comes as a great disappointment to our members at Thorp who believe firmly that the plant has a future and have been actively campaigning for new reprocessing contracts.

“The announcement, though not surprising, is sudden and it is fair to say that the way this was communicated to the workforce could have been better.

“The closure will see a reduction in the numbers employed on the plant once operations cease, with only a fraction of the existing staff remaining during the clean-out phase prior to decommissioning.”

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