Western Daily Press, 26 May 2007

Scientists at a former nuclear power station have staged a protest against Government plans to slash the budget for the plant's decommission which they fear will cost up to 100 jobs. More than 200 staff at the site in Winfrith turned out for the lunchtime protest yesterday after it was revealed the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority's (NDA) planned to cut the plant's funding by 40 per cent.

The original, steam-generating heavy water reactor, which produced enough electricity to power Bournemouth , was shut down in 1990, 26 years after it was built, and decommissioning began in 1996.

Experts believe the move would seriously delay the clean-up operation and result in almost 100 highly skilled staff being made redundant.

Secretary of scientists' union Prospect, David Luxton, said: "United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority was planning to accelerate the decommissioning of the Winfrith site back to a brownfield site by 2013, yet now this plan is under threat because of the unexpected slashing of the decommissioning budget for both Winfrith and Harwell in Oxfordshire.

"The Government's plans for new nuclear build will be in disarray unless there is adequate funding to implement the accelerated decommissioning. This is not joined-up government."

The move comes at the same time as the NDA is setting up a nuclear skills academy because of the shortage of specialists to clean up Britain 's 50-year nuclear legacy.

Mr Luxton said: "It is unacceptable to put so many nuclear scientists under threat of redundancy at the very time there is concern in government about the shortage of skilled nuclear workers to implement NDA's decommissioning strategy."

The scientists' anger was sparked by the announcement that funding to implement the Winfrith decommissioning plan was being reduced from £44.3 million in the current financial year to £15.4m by next year.


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