chapter  5
21 Pages

The Emergence of THORP from a Private to a Public Issue

A central theme of this book is that the Windscale inquiry must be seen in the perspective of the whole development, past and future, of UK decision-making and of the world politics of nuclear energy. Two interrelated points are easily hidden in the inquiry’s shadow and in the ensuing welter of British political self-congratulation. First, the inquiry was nearly avoided altogether and the private decision of March 1976 in favour of THORP allowed to stand with no public scrutiny at all. Second, when the inquiry eventually came, it was in frantic haste, allegedly to deter the Japanese from pulling out of the massive contract for which THORP was largely planned; yet the THORP plan had been public knowledge since late 1974. Even Cumbria’s planning officers, who had set up a working party with BNFL in mid-1975, could not understand why it took the company so long to formulate an outline planning application if there was so much urgency.1 It is difficult not to conclude on previous form that BNFL had taken for granted rapid approval without public scrutiny.2