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Monday, 21 April 2014

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Thorp plant to close in 2018

SELLAFIELD’s Thorp plant will stop reprocessing oxide fuel in six years’ time, it was confirmed by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority on Wednesday.

Workers, trades union representatives and stakeholders were told during the afternoon just after The Whitehaven News went to press that 2018 is to be the cut-off point. It means that by then all site reprocessing will have ceased because Magnox fuel is due to end the year before.

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

It is also possibile that 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.

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. Says the NDA: “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.”

Prospect national secretary Mike Graham said: "Today's 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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