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MOX PRODUCTION PLANT CLOSES IN N.W. ENGLAND – WHY SHOULD WE CARE ? READ ON

07 Aug 2011

The MOX Nuclear Fuel Plant at Sellafield, located on the N.W. England coast (border with Ireland), was closed on 03 Aug 2011, with the loss of around 600 jobs. The closure is considered one more consequence of the Fukushimaa Dai No.1 Plant Tragedy last 13 Mar 2011.  Recall that to our consternation, Dai No.1,  Nuke, # 3 (of four). Is loaded with MOX, and that it has suffered a Melt-thru. Well…this is the plant that USED TO make Mixed Plutonium and Uranium Nuke fuel(MOX) . Normally, MOX consists of about 6 to 10% Plutonium(the world’s most toxic transuranic – Isotope) the remainder being Uranium oxide.

THE MOX PLANT ABOUT TO BE CLOSED  was formerly known as Windscale, and is a former electricity generating site, commissioned in 1990 to reprocess “spent nuclear fuel”; Currently, Sellafield holds 13 tons of Japanese plutonium oxide for treatment, and mixing with enriched Uranium, to create new Nuke fuel.  This process has been viewed as a partial solution to the disposal of Plutonium which is the worst and nastiest (longest lasting transuranic Isotope) by-product of the use of enriched Uranium in Nuke reactors.  Now, it may never be known if it could succeed in that purpose, because the Japanese Nuke Industry understandably, has lost interest in MOX for the foreseeable future;  Worse yet, Sellafield appears to have been entirely dependent upon orders from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), even to the point where Sellafield’s current MOX manufacturing works cannot be economically altered to handle the latest generation of nuclear reactors in planning.

These days the MOX plant is known as the “West Cumbrian Mixed-Oxide(hence MOX) Fuel Plant”.  Allow me to tell you why.  Cumbria is England’s most N.W. County, and only came into existence in 1974,  Today it consists of six(6) districts and its County Head is Carlisle. In 2008 Cumbria had a population of just under half a million, and consists mainly of beautiful agricultural land. (sort of like Fukushima – Energy Barons love to pee on beautiful green land!).  Most people would say MOX What? – But then, most people don’t really care, and besides some things are best hid from the tax paying public;  So, understandably the people of Cumbria have adopted a “don’t ask – don’t tell policy”   FRANKLY, I HAD NEVER HEARD OF EITHER CUMBRIA, OR SELLAFIELD BEFORE – HAD YOU? )

HERE IS THE RUB, The Plant is owned and operated by the British Government-owned  “Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)” It was created at a cost to taxpayers £1.4bn since it was commissioned in the early 1990s;  Subsequently the plant , was set up to produce (MOX) fuel for use in nuclear power plants, with its chief customers the Japanese nuclear industry, and TEPCO. The plant was built in 1996 and became operational in 2001. So as a business expediency, the Decommissioning Agency became a “ MOX Commissioning Agency (now NCA ? – of course not)

The NDA denied there were any repercussions for the troubled Thorp Reprocessing Plant, although Thorp is also involved in generating MOX fuel, also made from a mixture of plutonium and uranium.  Another question is whether the Cumbria closure will prompt NDA to close the troubled Thorp reprocessing plant as well. The NDA denied that it was considering closing Thorp, and said the two cases were “unrelated” and that the business case for Thorp, which produces plutonium from other nuclear waste, continued to be strong;  However, the Thorp plant was constructed on the same premise as the Sellafield MOX plant(make it, and sell it to the Japanese).  Not likely now, is It ?

Tony Fountain, CEO of the NDA, (remember this is a government agency CEO speaking)told workers on 03 Aug 2011 morning: “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 (government)funding…the Plant has had many years of disappointing performance”.  Fountain added that the MOX plant has been funded in recent years by the taxpayer.  Its production had been the committed  to Japanese utilities to reusing nuclear fuel, and their support for the UK as a “centre of excellence”. But with the crisis in the Japanese nuclear industry, that route is no longer viable…The Hamaoka plant, owned by Chubu Electric, the intended recipient of the first fuel is closed, awaiting extensive reinforcement work.  Following Chubu, TEPCO were destined to take 50% of the MOX plant output; However their Fukushima Dai No.1 plant, is clearly facing the most extreme challenges.”  In a comforting note, Sellafield employees at the plant were told that there was “considerable scope”… for them to be re-employed in other parts of the Sellafield complex, and that it will take several months for the plant to close fully.

The NDA (CEO Fountain ?) said: “We have concluded that in order to ensure that the UK (I think he means British) taxpayer does not carry a future financial burden from the Sellafield MOX plant, the only reasonable course of action is to close the plant at the earliest practical opportunity…NDA will continue to store Japanese plutonium safely, and further develop discussions with the Japanese customers on a responsible approach to support the Japanese Nuke utilities’ policy for the reuse of their material”.

ENGLISH LABOUR MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT (MP) Jamie Reed, whose Copeland constituency includes Sellafield, see the Plant closure quite differently.  He has called on the government to lay out details of a potential plan to build a new MOX plant at the site, and said: “It is now absolutely essential that the new MOX plant is brought forward as quickly as possible. The market for MOX fuel exists and is growing, our plutonium disposition strategy relies upon such a facility and the industry requires it…gleeful vultures would seize upon the decision to close the plant and argue against the ‘critical national need’ for new MOX plant”.  HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL! – SPECIALLY AMONG IGNORANT POLITICIANS.

GREENPEACE AND FRIENDS OF THE EARTH  Director Craig Bennett said: The move showed nuclear power did not make economic sense…Yet again taxpayers are footing the bill for the “Alice in Wonderland economics” of the nuclear industry (THAT IS TELLING IT LIKE IT IS!) This money ( the £1.4 Bn) could have been spent developing the UK’s vast renewable energy potential, creating new green jobs and business opportunities. This announcement will be a tremendous blow to the (600) people that work at the plant – we hope their expertise can be redeployed to help safeguard us all from the nuclear industry’s existing legacy of radioactive waste.”

BRITISH BIG BROTHER SAYS:  “The plant closing had no implications for the UK’s plans for new nuclear reactors”.  SEE THERE – BUSINESS AS USUAL- I THINK THE SPOKESPERSON IS WRONG,  AND “WHISTLING PAST THE CEMETERY“… Any such new nuclear power plants under consideration would not be the kind that could use MOX as a fuel because that would elevate building costs; so he says.

MY TAKE

The signs are evident worldwide that the Uranium Cartel, as we have known it, has lost public support and its primacy; This, is in no small part due to the on-going Fukushima Tragedy.  This story is one more sign of the support erosion even in Nuke supporting government circles like the U.K. and France.  Meanwhile the Uranium Cartel Press agents are going full tilt telling the world more blatant lies and wishful aspirations for their future, making believe everything is still fine.  IT IS NOT!

Do you ever ponder why we never hear the details behind the News?  I they wanted us to know, they would report it.  WE TELL IT, LIKE IT IS.

THIS IS AN IMPORTANT STORY BECAUSE ONCE AGAIN IT DEMONSTRATES THAT THE ACHILLES HEEL OF THE URANIUM NUKE INDUSTRY IS: HOW TO DISPOSE OF ALL THE PERSISTENT POISONS THEY PRODUCE.  IF THEY KNEW HOW, THEY WOULD.

gonzedo

August 7, 2011 at 1:04 AM
1 comment »
  • August 27, 2011 at 3:30 AMBritta Bynon

    Mainly because it affects the well being of the public.

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