Category: Archive

Irish government wants Sellafield closed

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — The Irish government is planning a political and legal onslaught against the continued operation of the British Nuclear Fuels reprocessing plant at Sellafield, across the Irish Sea in Cumbria, after a series of damning official reports found systematic management failures and falsification of data.

Following the reports, the government has demanded that Britain justify how the plant could be allowed continue to operate.

Joe Jacob, Ireland’s minister of state with responsibility for energy, described the situation as "very serious" and said he was "very disturbed" about the picture that emerged of a company "which has deep safety culture deficiencies."

Jacob has written to the British government as the shareholder in Sellafield to "consider whether the plant should be shut down until at least new management systems and other changes have been made."

He told RTE that the government wanted Sellafield closed down permanently.

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"That is the bottom line. That is what we aspire to."

"We have always said we would take a case against Sellafield in the courts were sufficient scientific evidence available to us. We will be referring the situation now to the attorney general. The attorney general’s advice up to now is that the evidence is not there."

Jacob expressed particular concern about the British Nuclear Installations inspectorate’s conclusions concerning control and supervision at Sellafield.

"The report has suggested that the Sellafield site lacks a high quality management safety system. It also finds that sufficient resources have not been provided to implement the existing safety management system," Jacobs said.

"Furthermore, it concludes that there is not an effective independent inspection, auditing and review system within BNFL.

"For the UK’s independent regulator to come to such conclusions about a site in close proximity to the east coast of Ireland is totally unacceptable to the Irish government," he said.

The minister has ordered the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland to have an urgent meeting with the UK inspectorate to "establish why Sellafield operations are being allowed to continue in such circumstances."

"The onus is on the UK government to demonstrate to us that their regulatory systems are adequate to deal with the shortcomings which have been identified and that there is no serious risk to us of an accident occurring there.

"There is a very real need to address legitimate public concern about safety at the site."

Since Sellafield opened on the Cumbrian coast in the 1950s, it has been a source of constant tensions between the Irish and British governments. Only 60 miles from the Irish coast, it is closer to Dublin than to London.

Sellafield recycles used fuel from nuclear power stations worldwide. Employing more than 10,000, it is one of the world’s two principal recycling plants; the other is France’s La Hague plant.

Jack Dromey, national officer of the Transport and General Workers’ Union, whose father came from Cork and mother from Tipperary, said Irish people were entitled to distrust BNFL.

Five workers have been sacked but he said it was wrong that the "Indians suffer and the Chiefs get off scot free."

He described the reports as a "devastating indictment" which made clear there was still a "residual major problem at Sellafield" despite attempts to clean up the industry.

Dromey said it was "unforgivable" if anyone was found to have deliberately cut corners or falsified documents and they would not "defend the indefensible."

"If we in the trade unions have, for one moment, any inkling whatsoever that anyone ever once again tries to sweep anything underneath the carpet which puts at risk the public interest, we will blow the whistle."

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