UK nuclear fuel plant gets official backing

BNFL wins safety authority green light; awaits permit to open larger MOX manufacturing plant

The UK's nuclear safety authority announced today that a fuel manufacturing facility at the centre of a data falsification scandal earlier this year, will be allowed to reopen. Until its closure, the facility produced mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel from spent fuel rods for power firms in Europe and Japan.

Today's announcement follows a report published by the nuclear installations inspectorate (NII) in February (ENDS Daily 18 February). The NII today accepted that 15 recommendations for new procedures at the plant had been implemented by Sellafield operator, British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL).

BNFL's chief executive Norman Askew said that the NII's decision was "excellent news" and that it reflected the company's "commitment and hard work" since falsification of safety information accompanying MOX fuel produced at the plant was first uncovered more than a year ago. Asked whether the facility would start operating again soon, a BNFL spokesperson said that it would only reopen as a "small support plant" for a much larger MOX manufacturing facility. This full-scale MOX plant was built but not granted approval to open when data falsification was uncovered at the smaller one.

Environmental groups had hoped that the safety scandal, and BNFL's ensuing loss of reprocessing contracts (ENDS Daily 11 July), would mean that the larger plant would never open. A BNFL spokesperson said today that the company now hoped to get government approval to operate the full-scale plant around mid-next year.

Follow Up:
Health & Safety Executive, of which NII is a part, tel: +44 87 01 54 55 00; {BNFL}, tel: +44 1295 83 20 00.

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