Britain to shut nuclear unit in wake of Japan disaster

3rd August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's government on Wednesday said it planned to shut part of a nuclear plant in Sellafield, northern England, as soon as possible and on commercial grounds following Japan's nuclear disaster.

Unions hit out at the decision to close the Sellafield MOX Plant, which employs 800 people.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which implements government policy on the management of nuclear waste, said the facility would be closed to ensure taxpayers did not "carry a future financial burden."

A statement added: "The NDA Board has now assessed the changed risk profile for SMP arising from potential delays following the earthquake in Japan" and "the only reasonable course of action is to close SMP at the earliest practical opportunity."

The Prospect union, which represents workers in the nuclear industry, said "the closure decision was thought to have been influenced by the lack of funding available from Japanese government contracts, following the earthquake and tsunami that shut down the Fukushima 1 nuclear reactor in March."

It added in a statement that the facility takes plutonium that has been reprocessed from spent nuclear fuel at Sellafield's THORP plant, and recycles it into 'mixed oxide fuel,' which can be reused to fuel nuclear reactors.

Kevin Coyne of the Unite union said the decision was "shocking and frankly bizarre".

"The government is currently deciding whether to give the go-ahead for building a new MOX plant. So where is the rationale in closing the current one now?" he said.

Sellafield lies on the Irish Sea coast in Cumbria, northwest England.

Britain's chief nuclear inspector said in May that Britain's nuclear plants were not at risk from the kind of natural disaster that caused Japan's crisis and could continue to operate as normal.

The British government is planning a new series of nuclear reactors on existing sites to maintain electricity supplies and cut greenhouse gas emissions as an old generation of power stations are phased out.

© 2011 AFP

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