Thursday, October 25, 2001

THE European Parliament has been told to keep its hands off Sellafield!"

Sir Robert Atkins (Con MEP, North West) made the statement in a debate in the European Parliament this week in response to Irish attempts to close down the West Cumbrian plant.

He told the parliament: "Four Irish MEPs representing Fine Gael, Fianna Foyle, the Greens and the Socialists launched a wholly unmerited attack on the UK Government's long-overdue decision to implement the Mox plant at Sellafield."

He said later: "They want the plant closed down on the new, spurious grounds that it is now a terrorist threat and I was not prepared to sit back and let them try to destroy the economic and employment prospects of my constituents."

"I reiterated the stance that I took when I was Northern Ireland Minister for energy," continued the Tory MEP, "Namely that the safety and environmental record of BNFL is as good as any company in any other industry and that Ireland had nothing to fear."

"They are just using the current terrorist threat as an excuse to make political capital in Ireland, at the expense of British jobs and expertise and they should understand that they are not going to win this one."

n AN MP from the IRA's political wing has claimed there is a "real danger" of terrorist strikes against Sellafield.

Caoimhghin O Caolain, Sinn Fein's only representative in the Irish Parliament, said the nuclear plant was a "potential Chernobyl" and posed a "serious and immediate" threat to safety.

The warning came as the government considered whether to step up security in the light of French plans to guard nuclear energy sites with anti-aircraft guns and jets. Speaking at a CND conference, in London on Saturday, Mr O Caolain said: "The demand for the complete closure of Sellafield is now growing as people realise the threat to us by an attack on the plant, similar to that in the United States on September 11. That is the real danger."

But Mr O Caolain said Sellafield has already turned the Irish sea into "the most nuclear-polluted stretch of water in the world".

"I take this opportunity to call for a united effort by people on both sides to have Sellafield shut down," he said.

Mr O Caolain spoke out as the Office of Civil Nuclear Security confirmed it was still reviewing current anti-terrorist measures following the announcement by French defence minister, Alain Richard, that guns and planes will be used to protect a range of vulnerable sites in his country, including dams and nuclear plants.

n West Cumbria councillors were briefed on safety and security at Sellafield at the weekend in a bid to reassure them in the wake of the September 11 disaster. BNFL gave a talk to members of Copeland and Allerdale Borough Councils and other community leaders.

Robin Simpson, leader of Copeland Borough Council, said: "After September 11, there was a lot of speculation about what would happen if a plane crashed into Sellafield.

"We asked BNFL for a breakdown on what the security arrangements are."

Extra measures put in place since September 11 include extra patrols and gate checks.

A BNFL spokesman said "We do not genuinely believe that Sellafield is under threat of terrorist attacks.

"But we wanted to brief key community figures face to face about some of the security measures we have put in place It's all part of being good neighbours.