The Future of Sellafield MOX Plant

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has today made an announcement about the future of the Sellafield MOX Plant (SMP).

We have a duty to monitor the performance of all plants within our ownership in order to secure best value for money for the UK and to fulfil contractual obligations to customers. It is also required to ensure compliance with UK policy that the materials from reprocessing should be returned to overseas customers.

In October 2009 the NDA had concluded that the best course of action for SMP at that time was to continue to deliver the current manufacturing campaign whilst seeking to improve operational performance. In parallel, International Nuclear Services (INS) the commercial subsidiary of the NDA, were tasked with securing new commercial arrangements that would help to make the continuing operation of the plant economically acceptable to the NDA in the longer term. These arrangements are now in place.

The ten Japanese power companies, which have reprocessing carried out at Sellafield, have held discussions with INS and the NDA to aim to convert all their plutonium recovered in the UK into MOX fuel for use in the Japanese ‘Pluthermal’ programme. Agreement has now been reached between the NDA and the Japanese Utilities on an overall framework for future fabrication of MOX fuel in SMP.

Speaking today about the deal the NDA Business Planning Director John Clarke said

“We have reached agreement with the Japanese Utilities that will support significant engineering changes to the plant. After we complete the existing manufacturing campaign we will then manufacture fuel under a separate agreement with a Japanese customer. We will progressively establish if the changes made have resulted in improved performance and higher annual throughputs to sustain longer term manufacturing for other Japanese customers.”

Accordingly, the NDA has today written to Sellafield Ltd., advising them of the position and asking them to complete the present fuel manufacturing campaign on the earliest timescale and then to make improvements to enhance its performance further ready to manufacture MOX fuel for Japanese customers.

The new deal requires the increased production of high quality product and in the short term provides significant opportunity to improve the performance and to reduce operating costs. Given the past performance of the plant and the need to sustain and improve the current position the NDA will continue to monitor closely the performance of the plant.