Whitehaven News

Sunday, December 17, 2000

SELLAFIELD has taken on another 300 workers in the last six months - and the recruitment drive will continue as the nuclear plant fights for its future.

Scores more, up to a hundred and perhaps beyond, will be drafted on to the BNFL payroll to tackle a mounting and taxing workload.

But Sellafield's new director of operations, Brian Watson, has denied that he was forced to boost manpower because of nuclear safety inspections.

At the same time the man in the hot seat has accepted that too many were allowed to leave Sellafield with the voluntary severance golden handshake.

He said: "In reducing costs by reducing resources we have undoubtedly left ourselves in a position that we don't have sufficient resources to meet the workload."

Sellafield Local Liaison Committee was told last week about the 300 extra jobs.

"We have recruited 300 people on the site over the last six months," Mr Watson disclosed. "Some say we would not have had to do that if we hadn't reduced in the first place but the fact is there are gaps to fill and we will build up until we are sure we can deliver what we say we have to deliver. Quality is a key function.

The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, which carried out Sellafield's biggest ever safety inspection, has praised BNFL for making good progress on making improvements but Howard Robinson, the inspector responsible for Sellafield told the meeting attended by top BNFL managers: "Although you have recruited another 300, there is probably more needed. You can't run a system which is quite demanding without the right number of people who have the right competencies. It takes time for people to get fully competent so they can start to contribute."

It was also revealed that another 43 health physics monitors, staff responsible for carrying out safety checks, were among those added to the payroll in the last few months.

Mr Watson insisted after the meeting that this was "our own decision."

He went on: "The NII was rightly concerned about resource levels on the site along with the workload on individuals and their ability to get out and control and supervise activities. We took an initial assessment in the middle of this year as a rough cut of what we thought we needed to put in place to get the basic resource level right and that's why we have recruited another 300 people."

Even before the NII report, BNFL had decided Sellafield was short on manpower.

"Some of the things we were having to do as a result not just of the NII team inspection but the regulatory workload has increased the numbers of people we need," Mr Watson explained.