Thursday, January 31, 2002

BNFL chief executive, Norman Askew, faced a tough challenge on Monday attempting to convince British and Irish politicians of the safety of Sellafield and its Mox plant.

The BNFL boss also admitted at media briefings that the new Mox plant not only has to win back Japanese confidence and contracts, but also has to get permission from the United States before it can deal with a crucial Mox shipment.

Mr Askew said: "The United States Congress has a veto on the movement of plutonium. We need to get their consent for return of the Mox fuel at the centre of the falsification row. We have told the Japanese we will take responsibility for that fuel.

"We have not had an answer from the US since the events of September 11.''

But he said the veto by the USA was not regarded by BNFL as "insurmountable".

Mr Askew came to Sellafield to meet the British-Irish inter Parliamentary Committee made up of Irish, Scottish and British MPs.

After the politicians were shown around the Mox plant Irish TD Connor Lenihan said: "The more we have seen the less I am convinced of the safety of this place. I especially resent the lack of information for stakeholders in the community. I include the Irish people as stakeholders as we share the same waterway (the Irish Sea) that is used by Sellafield.'' Fellow Irish politician Maria McGuinness added: "The fight over Mox is not over yet...there is still a chance the International Law of the Sea, in Hamburg, will rule against the Mox plant.''

Chairman of the group, Labour MP Kevin McNamara, said: "I would not agree with Mr Lenihan's comments, that was far too sweeping. But there are concerns in the UK.''

During their visit the politicians were also met by Sellafield director of operations, Brian Watson and trade union representatives.

Mr Askew said he felt Irish government fears over Sellafield safety were "groundless''