Thousands of jobs hang on the Government’s decision over the future of the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, claims Jamie Reed, Member of Parliament for Copeland. In a Commons debate this week the MP pressed Energy Minister Charles Hendry for positive news about the Sellafield facility in Cumbria.
In August, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority announced that the existing Sellafield MOX plant, which processes spent nuclear fuel from overseas to make mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, would be closed.
The Government is currently consulting whether to open a new, separate plant to deal with the UK’s own stockpile of plutonium, the largest in the world. Such a facility could be based near the old MOX plant at Sellafield.
Mr Reed said that growing international demand for the fuel could be enormous, potentially worth tens of billons of pounds for the economy.
He said: “Given the strength of the case, the overwhelming need and the ready ability of industry to develop such a facility, all that is now missing is an affirmative decision from Government and a rapid response to the plutonium consultation paper.”
But there are questions about the demand for any MOX fuel, in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan, with several countries like Germany and Italy cutting nuclear power out of their energy policy.
In the Commons, Mr Reed demanded a “rapid response” from the Government on the issue to reassure the people in his constituency, where 16,000 jobs as well as hospitals, the police and public services depend on Sellafield.
Energy Minister Charles Hendry replied that there is “an enormous wealth of nuclear expertise and knowledge, and we want to maintain and use that for the future. The future is promising for west Cumbria as a nuclear community.”
However, he could not confirm whether the MOX reprocessing plant will be approved.
A spokesperson for DECC told ELN that “the reprocessing of plutonium as MOX fuel was a preferred option, but that the Government is yet to provide a final view on it.”
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