N-BASE BRIEFING
Number: 283 24th June 2001
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NENIG, The Quarries, Gruting, Bridge of Walls, ZE2 9NR
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E-mail: office@n-base.org.uk

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Dounreay - An end to reprocessing ?
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The UK Government is set to announce the end of reprocessing at Dounreay according to a report in today's Sunday Herald newspaper. A public consultation on the future of nearly 25 tonnes of spent fuel at the plant was held over a year ago and a decision on the three options was initially expected last summer. The three options were re-opening the main reprocessing plant at Dounreay to deal with the fuel; reprocessing some at Dounreay and some at Sellafield; or putting the fuel into long-term dry storage.

All the local authorities in the Highlands and Islands as well as environmental groups and the Liberal and Scottish National Party parties all favoured long-term storage. Nordic countries were also consulted by the UK and they also rejected reprocessing in favour of storage. Reprocessing the fuel would have meant the re-start of major
environmental discharges.

If the reports are correct it would mean a significant shift in government policy away from reprocessing - which has been supported by both Conservative and Labour governments - in favour of storage of spent fuel. It would allow Dounreay to develop new skills and techniques for long-term storage that could open the door to similar work world-wide.

If the government does approve storage rather than reprocessing it will reflect the environmental and financial weakness of the industry's argument to spend millions of pounds to re-open the reprocessing plant.

The decision would also mean the end of reprocessing at Dounreay - marking the end of two decades of opposition from the Highlands and Islands and environmental and political groups. It would mean the closure of one of Europe's three commercial reprocessing plants and increase the pressure on the UK's main reprocessing complex at Sellafield.

If the newspaper reports are correct it will not mean Dounreay will move out of the national and international spotlight. The GBP4 billion plus decommissioning programme involves the construction of about the dozen new
plants, many of which will involve environmental discharges, and several highly hazardous projects, such as emptying the controversial waste shaft and high-level waste silos. There is also the problem of radioactive
contamination of the seabed around Dounreay and the continued discovery of radioactive particles around the complex and on the nearby Sandside public beach.

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