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Sellafield's Mox plant cost taxpayers £2.2bn

Sellafield's troubled Mox plant was not “fit for purpose” and ended up costing taxpayers £2.2bn, a Government report says.

Sellafield Mox photo
Sellafield Mox plant

A version of the Sellafield Mox Plant – Lessons Learned Review has been released under Freedom of Information legislation.

It sets out the problems during the commissioning and operation of the plant, which shut in 2011, and makes a dozen recommendations to be followed if a new plant is built. The facility was designed to reprocess plutonium to make mixed oxide (Mox) fuel for nuclear reactors. British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), which then ran Sellafield, believed the plant would make money and boost its reprocessing business.

BNFL estimated in 1993 that it would cost £280m to build and commission. But by the time it started operations in 2002, the report says, the bill had risen to £484m. It describes the plant’s performance as “very poor”.

The facility yielded only 13.8 tonnes of Mox fuel, well short of the 120 tonnes BNFL predicted. And rather than make a profit of £400m, as BNFL had forecast, it ended up with a £2.2bn loss once decommissioning costs are included.

However, the report admits, there would be “substantial costs” in dealing with the plutonium in other ways, had the Mox plant never existed.

Its stiffest criticism is of BNFL’s lack of capability to manage the project.

The report says: “The original business case assumed that BNFL would acquire Siemens, including its Mox expertise. When the Siemens acquisition was abandoned, BNFL proceeded with the Sellafield Mox Plant (SMP) nevertheless and relied on its relatively limited in-house expertise.

“As a result, the Sellafield Mox Plant had very significant gaps both in its design and operating capability.

“This meant that the plant was not fit for purpose and struggled from the start with a wide range of operational problems.”

The report goes on: “The Sellafield culture was not well suited to a precision manufacturing production facility and for much of its operating life there was an unwillingness to face up to the scale of the problems facing the plant.”

Ministers are considering whether to build a new Mox plant to deal with the UK’s plutonium stockpile stored at Sellafield.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Energy & Climate Change said the causes of SMP’s poor performance had been analysed “and used to inform future work”.

Have your say

After reading only a handful of comments on here I've had to stop myself as I find it frustrating (I got as far as Barry's initial comment and the one from Tony Stephenson) It's seems people neither understand the Cumbrian tourism industry or the nuclear industry. Some brief words of advice....before you come on here and make up stories littered with inaccuracies and damn right offensive comments about where people choose to holiday, I suggest you get your facts straight because its pathetic and you make yourself look stupid. Cheers.

Posted by Cocker Lad on 17 June 2013 at 23:26

"The sellafield culture was not suited to this operation" can say that again, how could the "workers" who sit around all day doing precicely nothing possibly be suited to anything. When the Japanese data was falsified, it said everything there is to know about "the culture".
Shut the place down and stop pouring our taxes down the drain.

Posted by kevin on 14 June 2013 at 19:06

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