Energy to End Reprocessing at Sellafield
Three articles from Sunday Time, The Observer and Independent
on Sunday, November 11, 2001
- British Energy calls end to nuclear
waste reprocessing, by Mark McSherry, Scottish Financial Editor
- OFT threat in nuclear reprocessing dispute,
by Oliver Morgan, Industrial Editor
- Nuclear chiefs risk Sellafield's future, by
Geoffrey Lean, Environment Correspondent
British Energy calls end to nuclear
Sunday Times, November 11, 2001 (SCOTLAND)
By Mark McSherry, Scottish Financial Editor
BRITAIN'S biggest nuclear power generator has told
the government it intends to stop sending its nuclear waste for reprocessing.
British Energy says it wants to dispose of its spent
nuclear fuel by storing it at its nuclear power stations around the
UK for 20 years, while radioactivity decreases, before sending it to
an underground repository.
The East Kilbride-based company produces about 25%
of the UK's electricity, and its British nuclear plants are at Torness
and Hunterston in Scotland and Hartlepool, Sizewell, Bradwell, Dungeness
and Hinkley Point in England. It also runs plants in the US and Canada.
Despite having reprocessing contracts with BNFL until
2006, British Energy revealed it has already stopped sending fuel from
Sizewell B nuclear power station.
Robin Jeffrey, British Energy's executive chairman,
warned the company could move from Scotland to the US if its UK activities
could not become profitable. The move is a major challenge to the government's
waste disposal policy.
Westminster and the nuclear industry face enormous
problems convincing the public that long-term storage is safe. Four
years ago a plan to build a depository at Sellafield in Cumbria was
rejected, and the announcement of other potential dumps around the country
British Energy's plan will add to the pressure on
Michael Meacher, the environment minister, to come up with a solution.
Last week The Sunday Times revealed that a government review of energy
policy concluded up to 15 new nuclear power stations were required.
Jeffrey said on-site storage methods were already
used at its North American nuclear stations as they are seven times
cheaper than reprocessing.
"It is our view that reprocessing is a very,
very expensive method of dealing with spent fuel," said Jeffrey.
"The cost of reprocessing in the UK is £5 per megawatt hour,
compared with 70p for direct disposal in the United States. When we
were government-owned, we signed a contract with BNFL [to reprocess
at Sellafield]. Now what we are saying is we can't afford it."
The company says since it signed its BNFL contracts,
electricity prices for consumers had fallen by 30% and the cost of spent
fuel management had risen 11%.
Jeffrey claimed direct disposal was environmentally
superior to reprocessing because it did not result in plutonium stockpiles.
The British Energy chairman said the main reason
the UK previously chose the reprocessing option was an earlier intention
by the nuclear industry to create "fast-breeder" reactors
which could use the plutonium, a plan that had now been largely abandoned
by the industry.
Roger Higman, energy campaigner at pressure group Friends
of the Earth, said, "Robin Jeffery is right to say reprocessing
is an expensive waste of money, but he is wrong to say you could stick
it in a dump. This shows the nuclear industry doesn't have a strategy
to deal with its waste."
in nuclear reprocessing dispute
The Observer, November 11, 2001
By Oliver Morgan, Industrial Editor
Nuclear generator British Energy plans to take atomic
services group British Nuclear Fuels to the Office of Fair Trading in
a dispute over £300-million-a-year reprocessing contracts. The
companies have been wrangling over the contracts for the past year;
they involve BE paying BNFL upfront for future costs of reprocessing
spent uranium fuel from its eight UK nuclear power stations in the Thorp
plant at Sellafield in Cumbria.
Executive Chairman Robin Jeffrey told The Observer
that BE saw reprocessing the fuel as unnecessary, and that the system
used in the US, where fuel is stored in readiness for disposal in a
purpose-built site, would be a cheaper, more suitable option for the
Such a move would be fatal to BNFL's reprocessing
operations. BE is among its major customers, but its victory would have
a knock-on effect on others, particularly in Japan, where confidence
in BNFL was damaged after a scandal over falsification of quality-control
records on reprocessed plutonium fuel.
Under the US system, nuclear generators pay the
US government a fixed charge - $1 for every megawatt hour of electricity
they produce - and this money is used to fund the construction of a
long-term storage facility.
Jeffrey calculates that such a system in Britain
would save his company £250m a year and convert its lossmaking
position into profit. Last week BE unveiled a half-year loss of £110m
on its UK operations, due mainly to the fall in wholesale electricity
Jeffrey said BE had raised the issue of the US alternative
with BNFL in negotiations over the current contracts, which date back
to when BE was privatised in 1996.
He said: 'BNFL are not interested in negotiation.
[OFT referral] would be a last resort, but it is something we would
be forced to do. We would go to the OFT and ask why we should have to
pay these huge costs when there is an alternative approach?'
BE is hoping that measures to restructure the contracts
will be addressed in the Government's energy review.
risk Sellafield's future
Independent on Sunday, November 11, 2001
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Correspondent
11 November 2001 Britain's nuclear industry is preparing
a devastating triple blow against the Government-owned firm that runs
Sellafield, endangering its future.
British Energy, which generates most of the country's
nuclear power, is deeply frustrated by the incompetence, intransigence
and notoriety of British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. The energy firm is also
angry at the high prices it is forced to pay BNFL.
Now it is preparing to develop Canadian nuclear reactors
for Britain, to try to safeguard the future of atomic power in this
country and to free itself from BNFL, which owns the controversial nuclear
complex in Cumbria.
In a little-noticed move earlier this month, it signed
a joint agreement with a firm owned by the Canadian government, to examine
its Candu nuclear reactor as a potential for Britain. British Energy
chiefs are enthusiastic about the reactors, which they are convinced
are cheaper, safer and produce less nuclear waste than the three designs
in use in Britain - and would create thousands of jobs. If, as seems
increasingly likely, British Energy opts for these reactors, it will
land a potentially fatal double blow to BNFL's already dubious financial
viability and to the Government's plans to privatise it.
First, BNFL owns the only other reactor design - a
pressurised water reactor - that British Energy believes could be viable
for UK power stations. A deal on Candu reactors would be bound to damage
BNFL sales. Second, it would not be able to sell British Energy fuel
for the new reactors, as it does for its present ones; this would come
from Canada. Finally, British Energy would not send used fuel from the
new reactors to be reprocessed at Sellafield.
British Energy despairs at the price it has to pay
BNFL to reprocess fuel - said to be six times as much as demanded for
disposal of the fuel in other countries, and at an extra cost of £250m
Robin Jeffrey, British Energy's executive chairman,
told The Independent on Sunday that its UK nuclear power stations were
operating at a loss because they were "crippled by reprocessing