Nuclear clean-up plant gets go-ahead

Friday, February 15, 2008

A CONTROVERSIAL £6 million nuclear decontamination plant planned for Workington can go ahead.

Studsvik UK was granted a nuclear site licence by the Health and Safety Executive on Wednesday.

The plant will decontaminate low-level radioactive metal from the nuclear industry and sell it on to be reused.

Radioactive residue will be sent for disposal at the low-level repository at Drigg.

The company’s plans to open at Lillyhall provoked outrage from the business community on the nearby industrial estate, who said it would damage them and make them lose cash.

Studsvik was granted planning permission by Cumbria County Council for the facility last year.

Objectors complained to the local government ombudsman about that decision, but their complaint was thrown out. Objectors said the decision was flawed and the council had not followed proper processes.

Keith Thomas, a Dean parish councillor, and Alan Brown, contracts and supply manager for Iggesund Paperboard, which has a distribution centre at Lillyhall, led the challenge.

Mr Thomas said that although he and several others had asked to address planners, they only found out a meeting was being held from press reports. As a result, just three out of 77 objectors could put their case.

He also claimed letters of objection were not handed out. Instead, councillors received a summary.

But the ombudsman threw out the complaints, saying there was no evidence of maladministration.

The firm says the process is safe, environmentally friendly and would contribute to the local economy but because of a rule change, was then required to apply for a licence under the terms of the Nuclear Installations Act.

Last night, Mr Thomas said: “I am very disappointed that Studsvik was given the green light. Lillyhall Industrial Estate was never designed for the kind of processes that Studsvik want to do.

“It would be much more sensible to have this kind of treatment done at a site near Sellafield instead of clogging up the road with the trucks that they will bring.

“When Studsvik announced the plans, contaminated goods were never mentioned. In the planning application we were told that it was a metal recycling firm.

“It was a county council decision, which is based in Kendal. It just shows how out of touch the people making the decisions are.”

No-one from Iggesund Paperboard or Alcan, which were also against the plans, was available to comment.

The Studsvik application was the first application of its kind in the UK for 20 years.

Studsvik chief executive Magnus Groth said: “The licence is a confirmation that Studsvik has satisfied the regulatory authorities as to the safety and environmental performance of the facility.

“We are in the forefront of technologies that can be applied to the safe and environmentally responsible treatment and volume reduction of the vast quantities of low level nuclear waste in the country.”

The first phase of building at the Joseph Noble Road site is scheduled for completion later this year. More than 300 people have applied for jobs.

Studsvik estimates that there are 500,000 tonnes of slightly contaminated scrap metal in the UK that can be safely treated, recycled and reused.

The company has pledged to protect flowers, insects and birds on the site. A viewing gallery for schoolchildren to learn more about metal recycling will also be built.

Studsvik UK says the process has been operating in Sweden for decades without incident.

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