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The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"The recent string of problems at the plant has left the local community close to despair"
 real 28k

Irish Government minister Joe Jacob
"This is a very, very serious hazard to the health of our people"
 real 28k

Martin O'Neill chair of Trade and Industry Committee
"It's premature to talk about the closure of Sellafield"
 real 28k

Brian Watson, Sellafield site manager
"A very worrying time for everyone"
 real 28k

Monday, 27 March, 2000, 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK
Sellafield 'must raise its game'
Sellafield
Sellafield: Calls for closure
Sellafield nuclear power station has been warned by the government to "raise its game" as it faces an international campaign to close it down.

The prime minister's spokesman, Alistair Campbell, spoke prior to a meeting between Denmark and the Republic of Ireland aimed at establishing a battle plan to shut the site down.

Dublin has long been concerned about the discharge of radioactive waste into the Irish Sea.


Map showing currents
How currents spread Sellafield radioactivity
Scandinavian countries, led by Denmark, are also worried because radioactive traces have also been found in their waters.

Energy ministers from the two countries are preparing their strategy ahead of an international conference in Copenhagen this summer, which will discuss the call to halt operations at Sellafield.

Japanese problems

Questioned about the future of the Sellafield plant, Mr Campbell said: "As we said at the time of their problems with the Japanese, it's up to Sellafield to raise its game, they're operating in a commercial environment, we've been emphasising the need for improvement in senior management."

The chairman of the House of Commons' trade and industry select committee, Martin O'Neill, said the concerns of the Irish people were understandable because "for many years there was a lack of control over the emissions".

He said it was premature to talk about closure and added: "The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate has decided not to close it down and has indicated areas of great concern and given them a very tight timetable to fulfil these concerns and get them sorted out."

Job fears

Fears have been raised over the future of Sellafield's local economy in the event of closure.

The plant has a staff of 10,000 - 10 times more any other employer in Cumbria.

The attempt to suspend work at Sellafield also comes as plant management are reeling from a number of other blows.

Police are investigating alleged sabotage at the plant after equipment was deliberately damaged.

Unions at the site have appealed to members to co-operate with the inquiry and name anyone they know to be involved even if it means incriminating a friend.


Sellafield scandals
Saboteur hunt
Faked safety records
Injured employees
A report by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) in February revealed safety records had been systematically falsified.

Japan, Germany and Switzerland all stopped sending nuclear material to Sellafield because of the safety concerns.

Five workers at the plant were sacked after it was discovered manual checks on fuel rods had been faked to save time.

The operators of the plant are also being prosecuted over a leak of concentrated nitric acid last March, which injured two employees.

Reducing waste

Last week a formal proposal was submitted calling for nuclear processing at Sellafield to be suspended, under a legally binding treaty on sea pollution.

British Nuclear Fuels will not comment on these moves ahead of the Copenhagen summit in June, which will discuss the proposal.

But it points 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.

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See also:

26 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
Sellafield fights for its future
18 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan vents fury on BNFL
06 Oct 99 | The Company File
Nuclear workers sacked for fake checks
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