Leaks pose new Sellafield danger

by Democrat reporter

A RECENT report revealing an increase in levels of radioactive gas discharged by the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant and evidence of a potentially serious leak of technetium 99 into a borehole near the Sellafield site, have added fuel to calls on both sides of the Irish Sea for the controversial plant to be shut down.

The extent of the leak of technetium 99 -- a reprocessing by-product which remains active for 200,000 years-- from 50-year-old storage tanks is raising serious concern even from the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, the industry’s watchdog.

A £100 million development which would enable the leaking tanks to be emptied has yet to be completed. Estimates suggest that the overall clean-up campaign could cost in excess of £34 billion -- the overwhelming proportion of which will fall at feet of the British taxpayer.

Despite strenuous efforts by the British prime minister and representatives of British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) to defend the plant’s safety, a stream of reports and evidence of leaks, accidents, and deteriorating storage facilities have continued to undermine public confidence.

The widespread concern of the Irish people will have been made clear to Tony Blair as a result of the recent postcard campaign organised by the Ireland-based Shut Sellafield campaign. The campaign succeeded in getting 1.5 million Irish people to send cards to the British prime minister and the Prince of Wales.

Pressure is certain intensify further following the election to the Dáil of six Green Party TDs in May.

Irish sailors are to protest at a decision by the Japanese nuclear industry to send 225kg of plutonium to Sellafield for reprocessing by forming a ‘nuclear-free flotilla’ to greet the consignment when it arrives on two British-armed freightersduring the Summer.

Environmental campaigners Greenpeace have warned that the Japanese material for reprocessing contains enough radioactive material to construct 50 nuclear weapons and is likely to be a prime target for terrorists.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2002-05-29 23:06:51.
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