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Friday, 5 October, 2001, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Legal challenge to nuclear plant
Critics doubt there is a market for Mox
Environmentalists are taking the UK Government to court after it gave the go-ahead for a nuclear reprocessing plant to start operating.

Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace have filed papers in the High Court to try to stop the mixed oxide (Mox) plant at Sellafield - mothballed since it was built in 1996 - from opening.

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett ruled earlier this week that the manufacture of Mox fuel was "justified".

But the two environmental groups have applied for a judicial review, saying this decision was unlawful.

Graphic BBC

They said the economic benefits of the scheme have been "distorted", and that there was insufficient evidence that the plant would attract customers.

Charles Secrett, director of Friends of the Earth, said the decision was "dangerous, uneconomic and perverse".

"The decision makes the world an even more dangerous place.

"The plant will struggle to find clients and may never make any money. We will challenge ministers to justify this foolish decision in court," he said.

Stephen Tindale, executive director of Greenpeace, said: "Tony Blair's obsession with all things nuclear has forced through a crazy decision."

Campaigners have previously said they feared the 460m Cumbria plant, and the ships carrying Mox around the world, could become a target for terrorists.

On Thursday Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern demanded that Britain reversed its decision.

He said the go-ahead was "difficult to comprehend on a number of grounds", including the risks of pollution and terrorism on the Irish Sea.

He said his legal advisers may challenge the decision through the European Court of Justice or a United Nations tribunal.

Toxic plutonium

Mox is a blend of plutonium and uranium that has been extracted from spent fuel rods already "burnt" in reactors.

The nuclear industry believes that such recycling could help reduce the world's growing stockpile of toxic plutonium.

Consultants say the plant's operation will be worth 150m to the UK over its lifetime.

Local unions have welcomed the decision, which is expected to lead to up to 400 new jobs.

But critics believe terrorists may attempt to intercept or blow up shipments of Mox.

They believe it would be safer to leave the plutonium in spent fuel and keep it in storage tanks, rather than transport it around the world.

See also:

03 Oct 01 | England
Mox prompts mixed reaction
28 Feb 00 | UK
Nuclear chief quits
11 Jul 00 | UK
Mox: The voyage home
03 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Nuclear plant gets go-ahead
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