Ex-union boss reacts angrily to decision to close Thorp plant
Last updated at 10:26, Saturday, 16 June 2012
JOHN Kane, the man who led a successful trades union campaign for Thorp to open, has slammed the decision to shut it in six years’ time.
The campaign called ‘Trust Us’ was waged on behalf of both the Sellafield workforce and the local community in the face of bitter anti-nuclear opposition nationally.
“Now, to be told Thorp is closing in 2018, is a bit of a slap in the face,” Mr Kane told The Whitehaven News, adding: “A lot of us gave years of our lives in championing the case for the plant to start up.”
Thorp’s eventual closure was confirmed last Wednesday but was first disclosed in The Whitehaven News several months ago as part of The Sellafield Plan for the foreseeable future.
Former GMB convenor Mr Kane, who now represents Harbour Ward on Copeland Council, said: A lot of time, effort and money went into running our ‘Trust Us’ campaign not only for our workforce but also for the benefit of the community. It played a big part in convincing the government that Thorp should open. It was known as a Rolls Royce plant which would play a big role in the site’s future.
“Nuclear is the way forward and reprocessing is still the obvious way to deal with the materials arising. There has been a distinct lack of vision in deciding to close Thorp.”
The former union leader, now retired from the site, is sceptical about the NDA’s claim there will be no ‘cliff-edge’ in job losses among the 800 workers directly working on Thorp.
“More likely we are walking towards the cliff edge,” he declared.
For staff union Prospect, national secretary Mike Graham declared: “Our members at Thorp firmly believe 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 it 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.”
Peter Clements, Prospect branch president at Sellafield, said: “We knew it was a possibility but the announcement when it came was a bit sudden.
“We have been trying to get the company and the NDA to look for new reprocessing so it’s a bit of a disappointment to us.
“Even though the closure is six years on we are looking for quite urgent talks to try to try and mitigate any possible redundancies and make sure who come out of Thorp will be re-deployed on other decommissioning work across the site.
“We do realise to refurbish the plant would incur considerable expense but we did think the money would be there because reprocessing is quite a lucrative business.
What we also need to ensure is that the funding is there to open new decommissioning work faces to secure future employment and offset any possible redundancies.”
The decision has been made by Sellafield’s owners, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
Explaining the closure the NDA’s new chief executive John Clarke, who at one time was in charge of Thorp’s overseas contracts while working at Sellafield, said: “It’s a combination of taking into account the contractual obligations we have for customers, the plant capability, capacity and credible alternatives. We intend to complete those contractual obligations and close the plant nominally in 2018.”
On the 800 jobs directly affected, he said: “They will continue until at least 2018 - thereafter there will be a period of time for clearing out the plant, the post-operative clean-out period which we expect to continue for a couple of years at least.
“The operators (Sellafield Ltd) indicate they don’t expect to see any sort of ‘cliff-edge’ – undoubtedly in Thorp specifically there will be a gradual reduction in employment but we expect that will be counter-balanced by other opportunities on the site.”
Reprocessing of overseas fuel is expected to be completed by 2018 but beyond then Mr Clarke said there would be a significant amount of AGR fuel which would be destined for long term storage and eventual disposal in an underground repository if and when a location was identified.
“The site’s effluent plants supporting the reprocessing plants were in need of very significant upgrade costing hundreds of millions of pounds so the economics of continuing to reprocess oxide fuel in Thorp simply did not stack up,” he maintained.
Mr Clarke added: “An economic decision we’ve taken but it’s the most cost effective option for the UK taxpayer to complete existing contracts and then exit.
“A new Mox plant, if that’s confirmed, would be a major potential employer but there’s still work to be done both by ourselves (NDA) and the government to determine as and when is that the right thing to do. There is a range of potential future opportunities at that stage and the forecasts from Sellafield Ltd don’t show any cliff-edge effect in terms of employment other than a gradual decline over a period of time but there are potential new opportunities on the horizon to compensate for that.”
The NDA chief said the possibility of a new Mox plant, a new nuclear power station and a geological disposal facility all had the potential to absorb lost jobs.
First published at 11:07, Thursday, 14 June 2012
Published by http://www.whitehavennews.co.uk
Have your say
Mr kane I'm sure the workers you represent will be happy to know what you really think of them sitting on their backsides while you do all the work for them,your statement does not make sense, no wonder nothing ever moved forward it sounds like an excuse taken from woodburns book of excuses.
To be perfectly honest I do not mind constructive critism. But to read Arthur Millie bleating on ( the man who would be king ) if he had the bottle to put himself before an electorate.
And James o criticising me regarding making a career out of representing people, I have to respond to people who have done nothing other than complain, sit on their backsides and offer nothing constructive by stating put your names forward. We all have a choice in life you can pay your money then sit in stands and condemn
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