Thursday, May 29, 2008


Anti-nuclear activists in the UK are worried about nuclear wasted being transferred from around the UK to the town of Sellafield (see black spot on accompanying map).

In France, they are worried about waste that is already coming to them from the same Sellafield nuclear facility (pictured here).

Both places have legitimate concerns.

A study by veteran British environmental journalist Paul Brown published today by Friends of the Earth "Voodoo Economics and the Doomed Nuclear Renaissance" says Sellafield has the world's biggest stockpile of plutonium and uranium and storage tanks contain highly volatile radioactive waste "more dangerous" than the Chernobyl reactor.

The study points out that Britain's "nuclear recycling centre" has suffered "many near disastrous episodes in its history; but accidents and technical and management failures in the past 10 years have brought this production line of linked nuclear factories to a crisis".

"There is an ever-increasing quantity of nuclear waste which, despite billions of pounds of investment in hardware, the industry is struggling to deal with," the report adds.

Last month the French News revealed nuclear waste was being ferried from Sellafield , via the bustling port of Cherbourg to Cap de la Hague, site of a sprawling, high-security reprocessing plant.

Greenpeace confirms that deliveries to Cherbourg of plutonium were underway. The plutonium was being shipped according to several news sources and environmental organizations aboard the Atlantic Osprey. The ship, reports the Independent (UK), is “an old roll-on rolloff ferry with few security and safety features”.

While the company doing the shipping refused to admit anything (least of all plutonium was being transferred), Thomas Houdré, chief of the Normandy nuclear division of France’s nuclear safety authority (Autorité de sûreté nucléaire – ASN), expressly referred to the content of the shipments as “plutonium.” He said the plutonium would be converted to mixed oxide fuel (MOX) for nuclear reactors before being returned to Sellafield.

Greenpeace expressed its astonishment that plutonium was being transported aboard “an old, third-hand ferry with a single hull and single engine”.

Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE) said the Atlantic Osprey left during a “secretive night shipment” in late May during which time the dock was sealed off by security staff.

The campaigners believe that the original departure date had been delayed for two months because details were leaked.

CORE’s Martin Forwood told the News and Star (UK): “In its powder form this plutonium is prime terrorist material.

“Its shipment to France is highly irresponsible at this time of heightened terrorist activity around the world and its transport endangers all communities along the sea route.”

CORE says that high amounts of plutonium are being shipped from Sellafield in west Cumbria to France because of problems with reprocessing atomic materials at the British site.

The following is from the Northwest Evening Mail (UK).

Fears over nuclear waste transport plan

A MAJOR development to import and export radioactive waste in and out of Sellafield could create 105 new jobs

The building would be used for surface storage of intermediate level waste before it is exported to a final permanent repository, when one is built.

But anti-nuclear campaigners are worried that more radioactive waste could be transported in from elsewhere.

Currently, waste for storage or reprocessing is transported in and out of Sellafield by road and rail and also by ship through Barrow and Workington.

Margaret Sanders, coordinator for South Lakeland Friends of the Earth, said: “It is very dangerous to keep carting this stuff about.

“We don’t look after our own waste very well and if we can’t handle our own, it seems absolutely ridiculous to bring in more. We would be wholeheartedly against this.”

Martin Forwood, coordinator of Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment, said: “If they need to box up waste from Sellafield itself and hold it for the unlikely event of finding an underground dump, that’s fine, but I would be worried if this was going to be a facility that’s going to take in waste from other areas. The government wants an underground dump and I would not like to see anything done at Sellafield that makes it more likely that the Sellafield area becomes where the final underground dump will be.”

An outline planning application for the building and associated groundworks will go before Copeland councillors today – and the application is being recommended for approval. If permission is granted, major construction work is not expected to start for at least three years.

A Sellafield spokesman said: “There will be some work in the interim period and once the building is up and running the rough estimate for staffing is 105. “There is historic waste on site and it will be boxed up on site and this will be a storage facility for that until a permanent storage facility is found.”

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