British Nuclear Fuels received the green light from the Government last week to start partial commissioning of the £300m plant it has built at Sellafield to produce power station fuel from plutonium.
The company has been ready to start commissioning the plant since April 1998 but has been held up by two public consultations on whether its operation was justified on environmental and economic grounds. The plant will produce a mixed oxide (Mox) fuel from uranium and plutonium.
The company appeared to suffer a further setback this month when Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott announced a third public consultation, because the Government decided the public had not been privy to sufficient information in the first two. There was also an update on the potential market for Mox fuel to consider.
BNFL said the delays had cost it £20m so far.