• November 26, 2010

The Isle of Man Chief Minister, Tony Brown MHK, has said that the Manx government will be seeking more information on the UK government’s decision to operate the Wylfa nuclear plant beyond 2010.

The Celtic League had expressed concern about the decision given previous UK government assurances on decommissioning and the plants questionable safety record.

The League has also written to the UK and Irish governments to outline concerns

The text of the Chief Ministers letter is set out below;

“Wylfa Nuclear Power Station

Thank you for your letter dated 13 October 2010, in which you expressed concern over a decision by the UK nuclear regulatory authority (the Health and Safety Executive’s Nuclear Directorate) to allow Wylfa nuclear power station to continue to generate electricity beyond December 2010.

In March 2006, the former Chief Minister Donald Gelling, responded by letter to similar concerns regarding Wylfa’s poor safety record and the possible dangers from age related deterioration of the nuclear reactors. I note that in his letter, the former Chief Minister explained our understanding of the facts regarding Wylfa’s prospects for an extended operating life, in 2006 it was thought very unlikely that it would operate beyond 2010. At that time, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the owners of the power station, repeatedly stated that they had no wish to tackle the considerable difficulties associated with extending Wylfa’s operating life beyond 2010.

Now as 2010 draws to a close, new pressures appear to have forced the NDA to change its decision on Wylfa’s closure date. These pressures certainly include the NDA’s need to obtain income from Wylfa to finance its UK wide nuclear decommissioning programme. It is known that the NDA’s other main commercial revenue stream (from Sellafield reprocessing contracts) is due to decline sharply over the next few years. Additionally, as you will Know, the UK also has emerging problems with energy security and a likely decline in electricity generating capacity. The relevant issues are public knowledge and are routinely discussed by media commentators.

In addition, other circumstances have changed in favour of Wylfa’s continuing operation; in particular the extended availability of a reprocessing route for Wylfa’s spent fuel once it has been removed from the station’s two reactors. It had been thought that Wylfa would need to close by the end of 2010 to have access to an available reprocessing plant at Sellafield. Only Sellafield’s
Magnox plant can reprocess Wylfa’s fuel and it was scheduled to close in 2012, however that closure date has now been put back to at least 2016.

A second major problem to be overcome to allow Wylfa to continue to generate electricity was the limited quantity of new Magnox fuel available, as its manufacture was discontinued in 2006. Now Wylfa’s operators claim to have devised a solution to this problem; essentially by moving the fuel elements around within the two reactors to maximise the `burn-up’ of any partly used fuel elements. In this way they aim to extend the life of the Magnox fuel that remains available at Wylfa.

The Nuclear Directorate’s rationale for the extension to Wylfa’s generating life can be readily examined (Ref.1) and you will no doubt form your own opinion. Of course the Isle of Man Government’s chief concern is whether or not there has been any compromise made on the issue of Wylfa’s operational safety beyond 2010.

I am advised that based on the information presently available to the Isle of Man Government, we have no grounds to dispute the recommendation of the UK Health and Safety Executive’s Nuclear Directorate – `to support continued operation past the dosure date of December2010. `(Ref 1.)

Nevertheless, I am also advised that what information we do have available concerning the Nuclear Directorate’s recommendation lacks sufficient explanatory detail to engender the high degree of confidence which we need to have in the regulator’s decision. As a first step, I can advise you that one of our officers is due to meet with an official from the HSE Nuclear Directorate in late November – and that opportunity will be used to question the regulator’s decision regarding Wylfa, and also to request that the Isle of Man Government is provided with whatever further detailed information is available.

When we have obtained further information, we shall be able to review our opinion on the issue of the safety of Wylfa nuclear power station as it
continues to generate electricity beyond 2010.

In conclusion, I hope this letter has explained the Isle of Man Government’s present position on the subject of Wylfa’s continuing operation.

Yours sincerely

Chief Minister

Ref. 1 `Wylfa: Revaildation of periodic safely review to continue operations beyond Dec 2010′, Health and Safety Executive, Nuclear Directorate, October 2010”

See related link on Celtic News:



J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


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