You are here

THORP: Lame duck and loser

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(September 20, 1996) A hard-hitting report was published by the Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE) on the THORP reprocessing plant at Sellafield, United Kingdom. An analysis of British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) data on THORP's expected and actual performance levels show the plant to be well behind its original target and unlikely to complete its customers' baseload contracts on time.

(458.4539) CORE - A spokesperson for CORE said: "THORP is struggling at half its projected level. To catch up it will have to operate way above its proven capability. There's little chance of completing its first 10- year contract in time, and that will reduce even further the plant's already doubtful profits. BNFL are not only moving the goalposts, they're changing team managers and rescheduling the whole game to keep the real truth from the public."

Major findings of the report include the following:

  • A general fudging of figures by BNFL which conceals the full truth of THORP's plight;
  • Less than 250 tons of fuel having been processed by THORP in its first two years as against the 500 tons expected;
  • To meet the original baseload contracts deadline in the year 2003, THORP must achieve a consistent throughput of 900 tons per year -- well above the planned 700-ton level and significantly above current levels of performance already restrained by technical difficulties; and
  • In apparent recognition of THORP's inability to operate properly and by shifting the goalposts, BNFL now poit to the baseload contracts being completed no earlier than 2006, two years late.

Baseload contracts:
Contractees for THORP's 7,000/10 year baseload are the U.K., Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. Overseas contracts account for two-thirds of the baseload orderbook, with Japan as the largest overseas customer with some 2,500 tons. The U.K. is committed to around 2,150 tons.

Post-Baseload contracts:
Post-baseload contracts, i.e., THORP's second 10-15 years, are made up entirely of U.K. and German customers. U.K. contracts amount to 2,600 tons, while Germany originally contracted 1,500 tons. However, in December 1994, German utilities cancelled 550 tons of the original contracts. These were in respect of the Kruemmel and Gundremmingen nuclear power plants.

Copies of the Report THORP - Lame Duck and Loser are available from CORE at 98 Church St., Barrow, Cumbria.
Tel: +44 1229-833851; Fax: +44 1229-812239