Thursday, January 03, 2002

Sellafield nuclear site will soon be used as a short cut for key people held up by road blockages caused by accidents on the A595.

BNFL is so keen to help that it is drawing up a list of priority users such as doctors, nurses, school teachers and patients needing urgent medical attention. They will be security-vetted and given identification cards to get them an escort through the site.

"The sooner the better," said John Henney, chairman of the Sellafield Local Liaison Committee's emergency planning sub committee. "There have always been security considerations in the past but it seems they can be overcome.

"It is something I welcome, especially with the number of blockages we have had on that stretch of the A595.

"It makes sense to use the nuclear site as a short cut for people who really need to get through but at the moment can't."

Seascale district councillor David Moore, who is chairman of the Local Liaison Committee, said: "The last time the A595 was closed around Sellafield it badly affected Seascale clinic simply because the doctors living at the north end were unable to get through. One person who was due to go to hospital for treatment went to the Sellafield gates to see if they would let him through only to be told there was no access.

"However, children going to Wyndham School at Egremont were able to take the short cut because the bus drivers also have passes to go on site for BNFL.

"The company would now like to bring in a system whereby people who have priority needs such a doctors, nurses and teachers could go along and be issued with a special type of identity card enabling them to be escorted through the site.

"Ambulances and fire engines have always been able to go through but a couple of years ago when I asked about getting the system extended, I was told that, because of the site licence, it was not possible. Now, they have had another look at the options, particularly the security arrangements and found a way round it, which is great. There have been too many major closures and disruption on what is an important stretch of the A595.

"BNFL is approaching local councils, clinics and schools for them to put forward names of people to go on a priority list which will mean them going through a vetting procedure after which they will have their photographs taken and issued with identification cards."

At a recent meeting of Sellafield Local Liaison Committee, one of the site's senior managers Paul Croft said: "We have had a meeting with local residents. There is an issue when the road is closed for any length of time."

The solution of drawing up a priority list was being well received, he said, "and information would be held at the site's two main gates. We will not allow people through the site who have not been properly vetted. If and when the road is blocked again we will be able to test the arrangements."

Sellafield's director of operations Brian Watson said the site was also trying to improve the arrangements for making it easier to get emergency vehicles through in the event of road blockages.