Sellafield MOX plant decision passed to government

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(November 13, 1998) The United Kingdom's Environment Agency has left the final decision whether to approve a new mixed oxide plutonium fuel plant at Sellafield to the UK government. While the agency has recommended that the plant be allowed to start operating, it has expressed concern about the procedures, and recognized that the plant raised issues of national concern.

(502.4958) NENIG - The Environmental Agency has complained that the £300 million (US$ 500) plant (called SMP: Sellafield MOX Plant) was built before it reached any decision on whether to approve the plant or not. This undermines any consideration of the economic justification of any new plant and the agency calls for the procedures to be changed. In fact the agency believes the plant would only earn £230 million in its 20-year lifetime, resulting in a £70-million loss. The EA has agreed that uranium commissioning at the plant could take place before a final decision on plutonium commissioning because it argues that that is a reversible process.

The agency has referred its decision to the government, with the following comments: "Wider policy issues surrounding the operation of the MOX plant were raised by many respondents, for example, the agency's proposed decision on the operation of the MOX plant does not involve taking a view on wider issues of plutonium management strategy. The agency considers that major developments at Sellafield are matters of national and international significance and that, given the political and economic issues, relevant government departments should be involved in considering the MOX plant decision."

The Environment Agency's decision has been welcomed by the Nuclear Free Local Authorities which believes there is no demand for MOX fuel and that the plant would place the UK at the center of an international plutonium trade with resulting security and safety fears. NFLA has urged government ministers to reject BNFL's application to open the plant and instead investigate alternative uses for the building. The plant has stood dormant for more than a year awaiting government approval.
In Sellafield are two MOX fabrication plants: MDF, in operation since 1993, with a capacity of eight ton/year and the SMP. The SMP is a large-scale commercial fuel fabrication plant with a capacity of 120 ton/year, but solely to meet the needs of BNFL's foreign reprocessing customers. No utility in the UK uses or has firm plans to use MOX.


  • N-Base Briefing 155, 7 November 1998
  • WISE News Communique: The MOX Myth, 11 April 1997

Contact: Nuclear Free Local Authorities
Stewart Kemp
Manchester City Council, Town Hall
M60 2LA UK
Tel: +44-161-831 9108