Norwegian officials cool about Sellafield shutdown / News / The Foreigner

Norwegian officials cool about Sellafield shutdown. Politicians in Norway are hesitantly optimistic following Britain’s announcement to close parts of its Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant. The Sellafield plant was set up to produce fresh uranium oxide fuel for nuclear reactors. In later years, it catered purely for the Japanese nuclear energy market, but orders dried up following the Fukushima disaster. With the loss of 600 jobs this week due to the MOX nuclear fuel plant closure, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) Tony Fountain told The Guardian, “The reason for this [closure] is directly related to the tragic events in Japan following the tsunami and its ongoing impact on the power markets. As a consequence we no longer have a customer for this facility, or funding.”

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Norwegian officials cool about Sellafield shutdown

Published on Friday, 5th August, 2011 at 21:26 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson and Gareth Corfield   .

Politicians in Norway are hesitantly optimistic following Britain’s announcement to close parts of its Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant.

Sellafield aerial view (2005)
Sellafield aerial view (2005)
Photo: © Copyright Simon Ledingham/W. Commons


The Sellafield plant was set up to produce fresh uranium oxide fuel for nuclear reactors. In later years, it catered purely for the Japanese nuclear energy market, but orders dried up following the Fukushima disaster.

With the loss of 600 jobs this week due to the MOX nuclear fuel plant closure, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) Tony Fountain told The Guardian, “The reason for this [closure] is directly related to the tragic events in Japan following the tsunami and its ongoing impact on the power markets. As a consequence we no longer have a customer for this facility, or funding.”

Norwegian officials have been concerned about the possible effects of any nuclear accidents at Sellafield. Norway’s state Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) published a report at the beginning of the year claiming an accident at the plant would release radiation seven times worse than that of the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.

This prompted Minister of the Environment Erik Solheim to visit the facility together with other politicians. Further high-level meetings were subsequently held at the British Embassy in Oslo, which Norwegian officials and environmentalists criticised for being inconclusive.

Liberal Party (V) politician Helge Solum Larsen thinks this week’s MOX plant closure does not go far enough.

“We are, of course, happy about this, but finding a permanent and secure storage solution for the plant’s entire stocks of waste is extremely urgent,” he tells The Foreigner in an email.

“There are between 80 and 100 tons of plutonium and up to 1,000 tons of highly radioactive waste at the plant. These amounts represent a major threat to Sellafield’s surroundings.”

Audun Garberg, political advisor at the Ministry of the Environment, welcomed news about the MOX plant, but doubts this will make a significant difference, overall.

“The closure probably means that the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel and production of liquid, high-radioactive waste at Sellafield will cease in the long-run. In the meantime, the British have considerable amounts of Magnox fuel from old reactors that require reprocessing because this waste is unstable. Shutting down the MOX facility will not affect this,” he says.

“The British are also contractually bound to reprocess foreign nuclear fuel already stored at Sellafield. Therefore, the decision to close the MOX plant will hardly make a difference to the amount of liquid, high-radioactive waste short-term. Current plans show waste reprocessing will not be completed for about 15 years.”

According to Mr. Garberg, NDA and British security representatives will travel to Norway on 17 August to brief officials about new regulations concerning this type of waste.

“We will also be asking for further details about what the closure of the MOX facility means for future reprocessing and nuclear waste production at Sellafield,” he concludes.



Published on Friday, 5th August, 2011 at 21:26 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson and Gareth Corfield   .

This post has the following tags: sellafieldmoxplantclosure, norwegianministryoftheenvironment.





  
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