Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Europe
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"Sellafield is already fighting for its survival"
 real 28k

Friday, 24 March, 2000, 01:16 GMT
Irish and Danes gun for Sellafield
The Irish government has called for closure
By environment correspondent Tim Hirsch

A number of Scandinavian countries, together with Ireland, are beginning an attempt to suspend work at the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria, under an anti-pollution treaty.

If you want to hear strong feelings about the trouble-hit nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield, try crossing the Irish Sea to County Louth just south of the border.

For two decades the people living along this coastline have protested about the discharge of tiny traces of radioactivity which are pumped out from a waste pipe and can be detected in seaweed and shellfish as far away as Norway.

Map showing currents
Currents spread Sellafield radioactivity through the sea
In the small harbour of Clogherhead, fisherman David Kirwan says although he believes his fish are perfectly safe, he is very worried about the presence of Sellafield 100 miles to the East.

"Recent things that came to light tell you they are not trustworthy," he said.

"Two thirds of the people in the village are employed in fishing - if people are put off by what they see and hear about Sellafield on radio and television, then they are not going to buy our fish."

Anti-nuclear activists in the area say the revelations about the falsification of records in the plutonium fuel plant at Sellafield have reinforced long-standing suspicions about British Nuclear Fuels.

Fisherman in Clogherhead are concerned
Deirdre Cantwell, a schoolteacher from Dundalk, has campaigned against the plant for 20 years.

She said: "If they have been falsifying records to their own customers where economic business at stake, how much more likely were they to falsify the data that they have given us to keep us quiet on this coast?"

Whether or not these suspicions are justified, the damning reports on the safety culture at Sellafield have increased the international pressure on the British Government to deal urgently with the issue of radioactive pollution.

The Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern recently made his strongest call yet for the plant to close.

And the country's energy minister Joe Jacob told the BBC: "Whatever confidence existed, and it was small, has totally and completely evaporated among the Irish public, and because of our close proximity to the installation, the Irish Government and the Irish people demand a total cessation of these nuclear activities."

Deirdre Cantwell
Deirdre Cantwell has campaigned for 20 years
That demand is now backed up by a group of Scandinavian countries led by Denmark, which is submitting a formal proposal on Thursday for nuclear reprocessing to be suspended at Sellafield, under a legally-binding treaty on pollution of the sea.

It will be discussed at a conference in Copenhagen in June, and Britain could find itself increasingly isolated if ministers continue to argue for the plant to carry on operating.

British Nuclear Fuels will not comment on these moves ahead of the meeting in June, but point out that current discharges from Sellafield contain only about 1% of the radioactive substances present in the 1970s.

The company also says it fully supports the government's commitment to reduce those discharges still further.

In the streets of Dundalk, however, feeling against British Nuclear Fuels is running high, with virtually everyone calling for Sellafield to be closed down.

But as one man put it: "They seem to be doing their best to close themselves down."

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
Europe Contents

Country profiles
See also:

18 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan vents fury on BNFL
06 Oct 99 | The Company File
Nuclear workers sacked for fake checks
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to other Europe stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Europe stories