Thursday, April 18, 2002

BNFL will today tell the European Parliament that there is no risk to public health from Sellafield's operations.

Head of safety at Sellafield, John Clarke, will present a BNFL clean image side to Euro MPs during a public hearing held by the European Parliament's petitions committee, in Brussels.

The hearing is examining the impact of nuclear reprocessing on communities and regions in the European Union.

At the centre of the controversy will be damning claims by the petitions committee that: "a statistically significant increase in the incidence of leukaemia has been established in the surrounding regions of Sellafield and the La Hague reprocessing plants.

"While acknowledging that a conclusive link has not been established it cannot be ruled out that exposure to radiation is an initiating or at least a contributing factor."

The European report states that BNFL and the operators of the French nuclear reprocessing plant are contaminating the food chain with radioactivity yet they have not complied with article 34 of the Euratom Treaty in not divulging full details of their radioactivity operations.

But Mr Clarke said: "We are pleased to have the opportunity to directly address the Parliament and to present the facts.

"There is a lot of misinformation about the nuclear industry in general and reprocessing in particular and I think this debate is a very valuable contribution.

"Sellafield's discharges are tightly regulated and controlled under UK and EU legislation and within the context of international agreements. Numerous studies by scientific organisations and regulatory organisations have confirmed that our activities do not threaten public health or the marine environment.

"One of the greatest misrepresentations is that two million gallons of 'nuclear waste' are discharged every day. Most of this volume is actually just rainwater collected on the site, with more than 99.9 per cent of the total radioactivity retained."

Howard Rooms will be representing the views of the Sellafield trade unions at the debate. Also speaking will be Prof John Haywood, chairman of the Sellafield Local Liaison Committee.

David Lowe, from the Secretariat to the Petitions Committee said: "The committee findings are likely to raise the political temperature on this issue and the European Commissioner on the Environment is going to make a statement.''

Although the Committee does not have any legislative powers, the European Parliament could enact legislation in future.