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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 17:58 GMT
Should Sellafield be shut down?
A United Nations maritime tribunal has rejected a bid by Ireland to block plans to expand operations at Britain's Sellafield nuclear waste plant.
The Irish Government had tried to challenge plans for the controversial plant to start reprocessing mixed plutonium and uranium oxide (Mox) into a powerful energy source.
It argued that the £470m development, on the Cumbrian coast opposite Ireland, breaks international laws on sea pollution, and poses safety and security concerns.
But Sellafield is a major employer and the Mox plant will re-use otherwise useless plutonium and combine it with uranium to produce a new fuel source.
Is this the right decision? Should Sellafield be closed down, or does it have an important role to play?
This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
Kieran J, Cumbria, UK
Just saying a plant is a major employer doesn't mean that it is right to keep it going. The Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India was a major employer and it managed to kill 20,000 people, and is STILL leaking poisons into the ground. How many million years will it take for Sellafield's by-products to be safe?
I think it poor show, the UK should respond considering the response from Ireland over this. It is obvious we have a problem with this and yet there seems to be no agreeable alternative posted by the UK. Anything goes wrong and Dublin is only 70 miles away...
We have to shut down Sellafield to stop producing pollution. Adapting to lower energy use and to clean, sustainable energy generation is the only viable future.
Sellafield is a vital part of the solution to helping us find suitable renewable energy processes - to stop it now would be like changing the shape of the wheel from round to square.
Martin McGuire, England
Nuclear power is miraculous and efficient but has such a devastating potential to go wrong that I believe any further investment in it is folly for the future. I think it is time that we started investing substantial amounts of time and money into renewable, environmentally- friendly energy sources as, in the long run, this is the only way forward.
Shutting down Sellafield would be absolute folly.
Claims of pollution in the Irish Sea are
largely fabrications by pressure groups such
as Greenpeace to further their own
Sellafield is a high-tech plant which operates
to the highest safety standards and is the right
way for us to deal with our nuclear waste.
These "environmentalists" do not understand
that without a reprocessing and storage
facility such as Sellafield, which separates
the isotopes in nuclear waste for safe storage
and recycling, we'd be left with thousands
of tonnes of high-level waste to store
unsafely and at great risk to the environment.
I'd like to know exactly what they think we
should do with all of our nuclear waste should
we close down Sellafield.
On long term, there is no real opportunity to nuclear power. Considering the world's population growth, the fossil resources and the alternative resources are simply not enough to support us all with sufficient energy. Therefore it will be necessary to have a reasonable mix of all kind of energy sources to satisfy future needs. Just try to calculate the consumption of 15 billion people....and now all living on western standards!!!!!
Sellafield should have been closed years ago, as soon as the dangers were identified. Hopefully this is just a minor setback.
Andrew Wild, UK
Investments in nuclear power seem to be unwise, when there is such viability in renewable sources, and such need for energy efficiency in any case. Nuclear power remains unsafe (for management if not technological reasons), uneconomic, and unnecessary. It is also linked to military nuclear capacity, use of which (according to the International Court of Justice) in most instances appears to be illegal under existing international law.
It's not simply a matter of closing the plant down, rather that we have spent the last 50 years making waste that is very difficult to get rid off. Basically we are stuck with places like Sellafield to deal with the waste we have. Being from Whitehaven and having a number of family members work at the plant, I can see both sides. It is essential for the local (very depressed) economy but on the other hand, incidents like the fire at the plant in the 50s and contamination leaks leave a legacy for the local community and those further a field. Shutting it down isn't going to get rid of the waste. If its not reprocessed then we'll have to think of some better way to store it, and as the proposed NIREX bid failed, what about a storage facility in the South East? I'm sure that the anti-nuclear protesters that travel up to Cumbria would have something to say about that.
All nuclear power should be phased out. It is an outdated technology whose benefits do not justify the enormous dangers to humans and the environment. This issue transcends national borders, and Ireland is justified in being very concerned about this plant.
David Woods, UK
I am not entirely convinced that Sellafield is 100% safe. But then what is? However, as an exiled Cumbrian, I am unwilling to see the only major employer in this forgotten part of England closed down. The result would be catastrophic for the area.
If the critics can come up with some sensible plans to
provide alternative employment, then I would listen to
them with more respect. But until then, do not expect
West Cumbrians to pay for your principles with their
Sellafield should not be closed down. Until fusion reactors make current fission ones obsolete, the waste produced only has to be stored until it can be lifted off the Earth and dumped in the Sun. So the waste will be a problem for the 40 years or so and NOT for 500 years like the nuclear opponents claim. I can live with that.
Probably best to close it before someone crashes an aeroplane onto it.
The argument that it creates job is a false economy if the nuclear energy ends up destroying us! We know so much about the dangers (and benefits) of nuclear energy and about a limited fossil fuels - can't the £470m be put into developing environmentally friendly energy (look! Jobs!) instead?
Jonathon Thew, England
Their past record has been one of nothing but pollution. Whatever the claimed advantages of their new process, the only guarantee is that the environmental costs will be much greater than BNFL's short-term financial gains, but because they don't appear on the balance sheet they will be conveniently ignored by the political hierarchy as well as the management. Sellafield should have been shut down years ago.
Time and time again, action against Sellafield fails. Perhaps this is because there is actually nothing wrong with the place?
Most people who comment on the place have never been there and know very little about it.
Just let them get on with what they do.
Shut it down now! If we concentrated on using renewable sources of energy we would not have to risk both the people of England and Irelands health by maintaining what is, and always has been, a patently unsafe industry. There is no reason for us to have to use nuclear power. If the government gave funding in the same measure as they have done with Sellafield, towards renewable energy, we would all benefit.
This is a matter of morals - ignore the people of England & Ireland and kill them slowly with Nuclear power
use our heads by building renewable energy producing plants.
The 'faut' economic benefits of nuclear power would then dissipate.
Looks like the law is not such an ass after all
David James, United Kingdom (England)
Sellafield is a dangerous and expensive white elephant. The government should stop throwing money at it and start seriously investing in renewable energy technologies.
Alex Banks, UK, living in Ireland
Of course it should. It's dirty, dangerous and expensive. Just one significant accident would have us all irradiated for decades - a major incident would be worse than Chernobyl simply because of our population density. Shut it now.
Not without a very good reason and I haven't heard anything remotely sensible yet.
The biggest red herring being sea pollution.
Have any detectable levels of waste product been found? No. They are not likely to be.
Pure fresh seawater contains natural levels of all elements and amongst such things as gold and silver there is also 200 tonnes of Uranium in every cubic kilometre of seawater. Whatever does leak into the sea (if any) is gone for good.
Yes it should be shut down. The nuclear power industry is hazardous, damaging to the environment and a prime target for terrorists. You never hear of a terrorist threat to wind farms.
David Staveley, England
03 Dec 01 | UK
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