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Monday, April 27, 1998 Published at 02:10 GMT 03:10 UK


Call for nuclear security review
image: [ The security of nuclear installations is being questioned ]
The security of nuclear installations is being questioned

Environmental groups are calling for an urgent review of security at Britain's nuclear installations following the resignation of the police officer in charge of their safety.

Chief Constable Anthony Pointer resigned as head of the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) police force in a row over whether he had enough officers to do the job properly.

He will stand down next week after handing in his resignation in January.

[ image: The nuclear police are the only permanently-armed force in Britain]
The nuclear police are the only permanently-armed force in Britain
Andrew Munn, spokesman for the UKAEA, said Mr Pointer resigned after falling out with management over the number of officers needed to safeguard sites like Dounreay and Sellafield against attack by terrorists and environmental extremists.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Mr Pointer said: "The force is an excellent one, the police officers are very professional and the public can be assured that these sites are in safe hands with the police, providing they are properly funded and resourced."

Tony Juniper, Campaigns Director for Friends of the Earth, said: "This is yet another example of the fundamental problem with nuclear safety."

Lorraine Mann, of Scotland Against Nuclear Dumping, said: "There has to be an urgent and immediate review of security at these sites.

"Secondly, there has to be complete ban on bringing any more materials onto any of these sites until that review is completed."
Rob Edwards, on The World This Weekend, says there is concern about safety (2'43'')

Mr Munn said security at the sites had been upgraded and the number of officers stood around the level of 470 recommended by Mr Pointer.

"In February, Mr Pointer commented that he now felt that levels of security and numbers of officers were satisfactory," he said.

"The UKAEA police authority asked him to reconsider his resignation, but he chose not to.

"Both the government and the Director of Civil Nuclear Security, Michael Buckland-Smith, are happy with the security of all UKAEA sites, including Dounreay."

News of Mr Pointer's resignation came at a delicate time for the authority.

Earlier in the week, environmentalists criticised the government's decision to allow 4.3kg of weapons-grade uranium from the former Soviet state of Georgia to be brought to Dounreay for reprocessing.

"Terrorist exercise"

Mr Munn refused to comment on a claim in the Sunday Times newspaper that Mr Pointer's concerns had been prompted by a series of mock raids carried out by soldiers from the Special Boat Service, in which they successfully penetrated several installations.

Mr Munn said: "As you would expect, we have security exercises on a routine basis at all our sites, but I am unable to discuss individual exercises."

[ image: Dounreay: security questioned]
Dounreay: security questioned
A spokesman for British Nuclear Fuels Ltd, whose Sellafield site is patrolled by UKAEA police officers, said that the company was confident that security levels were adequate.

A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry, which has responsibility for the UKAEA, added: "We would say that security levels are satisfactory."

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Matthew Taylor has written to the Prime Minister saying that the resignation of Mr Pointer raised serious concerns about security of nuclear installations in the UK.


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  Relevant Stories

24 Apr 98 | Special Report
Nuclear fuel arrives at Dounreay

23 Apr 98 | World
Dangers of the Soviet nuclear legacy

31 Mar 98 | UK
Dounreay's £200m clean-up

  Internet Links

UK Atomic Energy Authority

British Nuclear Fuels Ltd

Department of Trade and Industry

Friends of the Earth UK

Greenpeace UK: Dounreay Statement

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