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Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 12:35 GMT
Can nuclear power ever be safe?

A damning report into the safety record of the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in Cumbria has criticised owners British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) for allowing workers to cut corners and falsify safety test data.

BNFL has already admitted serious failings in the way Sellafield has been run but is now trying to defend its track record for and reassure customers that British fuel is safe.

Do you have confidence in nuclear power? Can it ever be completely safe? Should BNFL abandon nuclear reprocessing altogether?


Your Reaction

The rot is spreading from Britain to Japan and now to Germany! The ethics and judgement of the BNFL management are deeply flawed and they cannot be allowed to remain untouched by this sorry saga.
I would start at the top and work down the tainted structure. This issue has stigmatised everyone in and associated with the nuclear industry.
Will, USA



The more nuclear power is generated and applied the safer it becomes.

Mikko Toivonen, Finland
Sellafield as a company has a sad history and a sad today obviously. However, the more nuclear power is generated and applied the safer it becomes. In all circumstances it is overall safer than fossil fuels. Unfortunately many people do not understand things that they cannot see but accept things that they see regardless of how dangerous they are (smoke, carbon, oxides of sulphur, oxides nitrogen, unburned hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, general toxic emissions from cars and filling stations.)
A few or even more becquerels here and there is a small harm in total compared to all fossil emissions. Also, if mankind wants to maintain the chosen industrial state there is no alternative on a long run but nuclear power.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

It's a safe bet that many thousands more people will die as a result of global warming than from nuclear power generation. Burning vast quantities of coal, gas, and oil causes floods, hurricanes, and droughts. These are not symptoms of nuclear power plants¿
Will Struthers, UK



As an optimist, I believe a solution will be found in the next couple of millennia to safely treat and dispose of nuclear waste.

Albert Chan, Hong Kong
Ultimately, it boils down to whether you are a pessimist or optimist. As an optimist, I believe a solution will be found in the next couple of millennia to safely treat and dispose of nuclear waste. It's like telling people in the 18th century that there will be a thing called mobile phone in the next two hundred years! But whether you are an optimist or pessimist, the fact remains that burning fossil fuel is detrimental to the environment and the damage cannot be reversed.
Albert Chan, Hong Kong

Of course it can be acceptably safe (nothing is ever perfect). However, cutting corners in order to present an attractive share flotation is obviously not compatible with safety nor would a company's anxiety to produce good returns for its share-holders.
Mary, Northern Ireland

Nuclear waste is clearly dangerous and hard to dispose, but anti-nuclear activists have blown the problem out of proportion. Fossil fuels such as oil are an even bigger threat to the environment than nuclear energy will ever be. Air pollution from oil contaminates more land and water and suffocates more people than nuclear waste ever did. Nuclear waste may actually help save vital wildlife habitat, though. Put some waste in a wildlife refuge, post the ground zeros signs, and people will not be inclined to develop the area and turn it into housing and shopping malls.
Jason M., USA



I think activities like smoking, driving and flying, in that order, put people far more at risk than running nuclear power plants.

Ron Brandenburg, The Netherlands
I think activities like smoking, driving and flying, in that order, put people far more at risk than running nuclear power plants. Nuclear fuel and its waste products are toxic - true - but the use of coal, oil and gas changed the air we breath and the weather conditions around the globe definitely for the worst.
Fundamental changes in nuclear power production by means of fission based on hydrogen are to breakthrough in the coming two decades, so I don't see any reason to refrain from it for the future. The real challenge comes when we have to decide how to reorganise our massive investment in coal, oil and gas.
Ron Brandenburg, The Netherlands

I'd like to see the government and EU starting some really serious funding of alternative employment in the Sellafield area. The only reason that this toxic nightmare has continued so long at cost to its workers and local population is that there aren't many other local jobs. So give West Cumbrians a better chance and close down Sellafield - it's proved itself incapable of running safely and it has no long term plans for getting rid of waste.
Simon Redding, UK



I stand up and applaud Australia for its commitment to denying the Nuclear counties permission for dumping of its waste in their back yard.

Mike, England
Nuclear power is uneconomical and dangerous. The nuclear power lobby has tried to convince the world that Atomic energy is the only way we can meet the growing demand for energy, but they fail to admit that it costs FAR more than ALL other forms of energy to produce. It is unfortunately a culture of denial that seems to be aided by the Governments of the Nuclear world.
I stand up and applaud Australia for its commitment to denying the Nuclear counties permission for dumping of its waste in their back yard and can only hope that their common sense will filter down to other governments before the planet is irrevocably ruined.
Mike, England

Will nuclear waste ever be reusable? What do we benefit by keeping the waste here on earth? Hey! Maybe some distant alien life form could benefit from the zing of plutonium ooze!
Steven Olander, USA

No, because of mankind's inept way of handling nuclear waste!
S, USA

If we build the processing plants outside the politicians' houses I'm sure they will be safe...
Bill Bell, United Kingdom



The public is largely uninformed about what radiation is.

J. Jensen, USA
I operated a nuclear reactor for six years as part of the U.S. Navy. I can say that, yes, nuclear power can be safe and effective means of generation. Controls placed on nuclear facilities by outside agencies are largely political and can actually hamper the ability to safely operate the plant by creating such a political workload that plants lose sight of the fundamentals of safety in trying to appease political groups.
J. Jensen, USA

There's a big difference between "Can it be safe?" and "Is it safe?" As for trusting the operators, I don't. We just had a radiation leak at a plant here, and no one even bothered to alert the people living near the plant. The Coast Guard was told to block river traffic, but no one told the local authorities anything. So boats were kept clear, but the schoolbuses continued to run. And we're supposed to trust these people?
Karen, USA

Could I point out that simply 'closing-down' operations at Sellafield will not remove any perceived (or real) problem with Safety at Sellafield. These facilities would have to be fully decommissioned - a process that could take, in total, many tens of decades, cost the UK taxpayer billions of pounds and produce tens to hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of intermediate to high level waste. All this would certainly not reduce the level of risk to the Public or workforce. Running the plants in the meantime, some of which have very recently been commissioned, until they reach the end of their economic lives would be the in the best interests of the Country, the taxpayer and of the local economy, where tens of thousands of people depend on Sellafield as the main employer and source of income. Closing Sellafield would devastate West Cumbria.
Graham Sutherland, Singapore

Current showstoppers of nuclear power are political; what to do with the waste, proliferation, personal management. We tolerate many thousands of fatalities a year by auto and industrial accidents but none in the nuclear industry.
Adam Parker, USA

What happens in France is worse. As part of my job, I reported alarming inadequacies: in one case high-grade equipment (ASME III, class 1) was operated in nuclear power reactors with no accepted safety file, regardless of a previous accident and a half-dozen failures in achieving acceptable design results. In another case, to satisfy my employer I should have prepared, as a Senior expert, a complacent report on nuclear safety, based on fictitious data, in order to benefit from European Commission funding. For both cases, instead of taking into account my detailed reports, the state-owned employer dismissed me, on charges of disregarding the company's interests. Settling problems by dismissing the personnel who reports them is a violation of nuclear safety code 50 CQA of IAEA (International Agency for Atomic Energy) but who cares? The chairman of the state-owned company rejected my claims declaring that the dismissal was well thought-out. I really lost my time in attempting to alert the Safety Authority, the minister of Industry, the Prime Minster, the European Commissioner... In fact, the only choice left was to keep silent or to debate nuclear safety issues in a law court. I have decided to go to the law court; the hearings are scheduled on 22 February - for 20 minutes, but I shall not be liable for professional secret and shall be allowed to speak publicly. This just a matter of principle, because I have had no chance to make myself heard and such a legal action I will never find a job as a graduate engineer. I am afraid that this will demonstrate how foolish and useless is to oppose offences of a state-supported nuclear industry.
Thomas Fronte, France

In 1998, the Dounreay plant in Scotland was the first European reactor to ever be decommissioned. Cleanup and shutdown will take until 2095 and cost an estimated $740m (U.S.)
Edward Lee, Canada

The decisions we make today with regard to issues of radioactivity will affect, in some cases, 12,000 human generations. The best scientific minds today can only address the safe containment of radioactive waste, not its true disposal. BNFL has the opportunity to be a global leader in decommissioning and cleanup. Why, then, do they persist in espousing that the continued production of nuclear waste is warranted? It seems clear from accidents world-wide the issue of human error cannot be ignored. Let us then only take risks in the pursuit of containment and stability.
Tatiana Maxwell, USA

I live in a small community which is near a proposed nuclear incinerator site to be run by BNFL. The news about their irresponsibility frightens even the most conservative members of our town.
Kathryn Linehan, US

If we can't trust these people not to falsify records how can we trust them to keep the power plant operating safely? These people are using a dangerous substance and they don't even have the decency to consider what would happen in an accident to others. If they wish to jeopardise their existence then fine, just don't do it with nuclear fuel, near me. Wasn't Japan's nuclear accident caused by complacency and what about Chernobyl? Do we really want to see a nuclear accident happening in our country? Isn't it about time we left this outdated and dangerous method of energy production in the 20th Century. So, we've proved we can split the atom. Lets now prove we can do something more sustainable instead.
Mark, Britain

Is this a case of whistle blowing? If so what happened to the whistle blower?
Eshwari, Sri Lanka



This kind of behaviour by supposedly highly trained employees is a damning indictment of the management at Sellafield.

Edward Moore, Greece
This kind of behaviour by supposedly highly trained employees is a damning indictment of the management and culture within BNFL Sellafield and for no management sackings to take place would fail to recognise this. The already poor public confidence in this industry would be permanently confirmed and the government's reluctance to tackle this matter seriously will be another step towards voter disillusionment in New Labour's true character.
Edward Moore, Greece

If the UK's safety is so bad one wonders what the rest of the worlds nuclear industries are like!
Vardon Jewell, Malaysia

As an ex employee of BNFL I would certainly back up the claim of complacency, however, there is also a certain level of desperation due to the fact that the industry is slowly dying. Why else would BNFL build a Gas fired power station (just outside the perimeter fence) to supply Sellafield's needs rather than redevelop the ageing Calder Hall reactors. Due to safety implications the closing of this industry must be a very slow process, but if the attitude and actions of senior staff do not change this process may begin sooner than expected.
Ben Cartmell, UK



Privatisation - someone is missing a few marbles, I think government control is the only way to ensure safety.

Alan Knutson, USA
Privatisation - someone is missing a few marbles, I think government control is the only way to ensure safety. Actually, at this point I would say shut the whole plant down. Business at this point has proven that their only concern is the bottom line, public health and safety be damned! But at the same time the Japanese certainly cannot be said have adequately or competently monitored their own industry.
Alan Knutson, USA

Anything less than the resignation of the top management responsible is totally unacceptable. They were presumably paid "big bucks" for their services and the stakeholders have the right to expect top performance in return. The sooner Sellafield is privatised the better. Private enterprise fully realises that customers cannot be ridden roughshod like this.
George Pierce, Singapore

How long are they going to get away with this, how long is the vast majority of the public going to be ignored when calling for the closure of Sellafield. Why aren't managers being dismissed, when quite obviously they can't even MANAGE to hide their own mistakes. Either someone is pulling the governments strings or something even more sinister is going on.
Colin Derham, Ireland

I visited BNFL and attending an interview for a job within the MOX group in early September of 1999. I was so appalled by the arrogance of the staff and management, lack of concern over ethical issues and lack of concern over safety issues that I withdrew from the recruitment process. There needs to be an investigation into safety at the plant and a thorough re-examination of 'best practice' within the MOX group.
Dr Matthew Little, UK



We have safely lived with nuclear power from the dawn of time - it is the fundamental energy source throughout the universe.

John B, London
Your question is perhaps looking at the wrong issue. After all, we have safely lived with nuclear power from the dawn of time - it is the fundamental energy source throughout the universe. Our sun is a nuclear device power by fusion. Nuclear power is a valuable asset but needs a diligent and skilled management. Perhaps we should instead be asking - Can unaccountable management in charge of such awesome power to endanger and pollute ever be safe?
John B, London

Alpha particles are the most highly ionising particles. When ingested or in direct contact with the skin, an Alpha emitter is far more dangerous than a Gamma or Beta. I say prosecute the management teams for negligence, pollution, breach of trust and anything else that the lawyers can think of.
Jason, Scotland

The management structure at Sellafield appears to need major improvements. All involved in falsifying test results should be prosecuted, a garage mechanic falsifying MOT certificates would be! By the way, I undertook some research a few years ago that had as it's cornerstone data from BNFL on discharge levels into the Irish Sea, I suppose that work will have to be re-assessed if their data cannot be trusted.
Robert Hartwell, Sweden



The media love a nuclear scare story and this is a beauty!

Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK
The media love a nuclear scare story and this is a beauty! Obviously, the people involved in this scandal need to be disciplined (fired or prosecuted?) but let's calm down a bit, get a bit of perspective, and take the appropriate measures when all the facts are known and understood.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

People should not wait for another Chernobyl to prove how dangerous nuclear fuel is, if no precautions or there are real safety records
Rabson Daka, Zambia

I thought the falsification was over quality assurance rather than safety data. Anyway using energy causes pollution, it just depends whether you prefer radioactive, green house gas/acid rain or visual pollution. Take your pick.
Simon, England



Surely the issue is not so much the safety or otherwise of the industry as whether the public can trust the people who run it

John Smith, UK
. This incident shows that they can't. If we continue to use fossil fuel rather than nuclear, and the environment suffers as a result, environmentalists will no doubt be blamed; but the nuclear industry itself will be responsible for the public's rejection of its claims of benefit. Finally, Steve Foley shouldn't be too glib about alpha emitters. Ingestion of small particles, by swallowing or breathing them in, can be very dangerous. This is clearly more likely with grain-sized bits on a beach!
John Smith, UK

If atomic energy is safe, the nuclear powers will not be looking for "Nuclear Waste Buyers". They would have preferred to dump them at their own backyards. The price tag of "Nuclear waste" destined for another country is staggering!
Tajudeen Isiaka, Nigeria

To the people that would call for the abandonment of nuclear power stations. The fact of the matter is we need them. The Nuclear Power industry, if well regulated, can provide us with a huge source of CLEAN safe energy. I know that I would rather live within miles of a nuclear power plant than a coal one.
Tristan O'Dwyer, England



Here we go again - if it is nuclear then it must be the end of the world

Bob, UK
Here we go again - if it is nuclear then it must be the end of the world - if only other industries were so safety conscious. Why not concentrate on the real polluting industries for a change.
Bob, UK

More people die per unit of power produced from coal than from nuclear. Let's keep a sense of proportion. BNFL's reactions to the problems in Japan were crass. I cannot understand why they didn't immediately return the dodgy batch regardless of the cost. If they loose Japan as a customer, the reprocessing plant is dead anyway.
Michael Grazebrook, UK

The deception behind the Japanese shipment was solely one of quality control for which BNFL's customers have every right to be aggrieved. However this particular deception has no bearing on the category of safety deficiencies that result in nuclear accidents. Consequently associating this incident with Three Mile Island and Chernobyl is a hysterical reaction based upon ignorance of the facts behind nuclear power or a desire to denigrate the debate with dishonesty.
Dr. M. Moran, UK

Can it ever be completely safe? Err... no... That's all that needs to be said. It's insanity but it's all driven by the fact that nuclear power makes the raw material for nuclear weapons. Strangely I think it's nuclear power that's the more dangerous of the two, there's just no way you can guarantee the safety of these plants for thousands of years, it's short-termism gone mad. Close them all down.
Eddie, UK

Surely its time for a full scale investigation into the safety of all nuclear power stations around the country. I grew up living very close to a nuclear power station and have had long running concerns about their safety. It is time to seriously consider the alternatives to nuclear power so that unsafe nuclear power plants can if necessary be closed down, cleaned up and replaced by an alternative energy resource effectively.
Paula Clarke, England

To subject the nuclear industry to market forces seems to me to be asking for the type of incident which has occurred.

Kate, UK
Despite having participated in anti-nuclear protests in my 20's I am not at all anti-science as I believe in the right hands then most technologies can be handled fairly safely. Risk can never be eliminated in any area of life but to subject the nuclear industry to market forces seems to me to be asking for the type of incident which has occurred. My heart goes out to the people who work there and who live locally.
Kate, UK

The question might read, can nuclear power ever be economically viable? BNFL boasted on its own website that it recently spent £750,000,000 on reducing toxic emissions. Meanwhile, renewable energy projects are left woefully under funded, even though they represent a potentially vast and profitable export market over the coming decades.
Ross Henderson, Scotland

Nuclear power in the form of nuclear fission can never be safe simply because it produces dangerous waste products. What the government should do is start leaning towards renewable energy sources, until nuclear fusion becomes possible. This type of nuclear power is much safer than fission, and doesn't produce radioactive waste. Then we can stop using renewable sources too, since even these aren't perfect.
Matthew Pearson, UK

Of course Nuclear power can be safe. But unfortunately not in this country. British work habits, as well as British management techniques, make sure that safety will never be a top priority. The middle managers and the head of BNFL should be sacked. This is unfortunately what happens in a private company when more and more staff are sacked for profit reasons to keep shareholders happy. But again this is British management technique, if we can't make profit, let's sack a few thousand workers so we can have some dividends paid out. It's already clear that BNFL have no regard for the safety of their staff or the public and not only that they have sullied Britains international reputation by ripping off a trading partner. Maybe if this country loses a few billion in export sales due to this, the government might get the message to renationalise BNFL or do something to force the company to make safety top priority and not shareholders dividends.
Vishal Vashisht, UK

To address the question of nuclear safety, was any harm caused by these admittedly idiotic people? The power station didn't blow up, and nobody would even have noticed if the falsification hadn't been found out. As long as people are sensible and automatic systems are maintained, Nuclear Power is perfectly safe, whether or not the paperwork is done properly.
Matt, UK

I don't believe that nuclear fuels and nuclear power are excessively dangerous form of energy, if they are handled correctly. What makes nuclear power dangerous is leaving it in the hands of private companies who hold their profits in higher regard than employees and the general public. BNFL must be made more accountable for their actions, not just to their shareholders. A 50 page report into their failings is not a suitable way to punish BNFL, its about time the government stopped pussyfooting around large companies and told them unequivocally to get their house in order or stop trading in that particular sector. If this doesn't happen the country will be robbed of what will become a vital income and power source.
Marco, UK

Do you really think that you British would stay quiet if we Irish had a Nuclear plant 60 miles from your territory, with leaks, fake records and no accountability?
Michael Murphy, Ireland

Don't just sack the people involved. Prosecute them.
Kevan Ahmadi, UK

These news are very distressing. I assume that this scandal covers the whole activity of the plant and we here in the north are concerned about marine pollution. Are these people to be trusted?
Indridason, H.D., Iceland

What incompetence - and although details are not yet clear the report is likely to damage most of the little remaining support for the commercial operations that support the facilities and production of our own nuclear deterrent.
Harry, Kenya



The need for nuclear power far outreaches any possible "Falsification" of safety records.

Scott Hill, UK
The need for nuclear power far outreaches any possible "Falsification" of safety records. Surely, Russia and Japan should clear up their acts. After all, they led to mass radioactive contamination. Not really quite as bad as a bit of dodgy paperwork, is it!? Sellafield do a good clean job (or at least make it look like that). They are a major part of the worlds Nuclear waste material re-processing and it is vital that it stays open so as not do increase the rate of depletion of non-renewable resources - coal/oil/gas.
Scott Hill, UK

This is crazy. In a world that has seen Chernobyl, how can this happen. 'Falsifying safety records' on a NUCLEAR power station. This government is stark raving mad if it thinks the public will see this as a good target for privatisation. The entire top management of BNFL should be sacked and also prosecuted without delay for this. It throws up serious doubt about the viability and safety of nuclear power. The government should try investing serious money in renewable green energy such as solar/wind energy like many other countries do already.
Cliff Harris, UK

It is unbelievable that the management responsible for checking safety and ensuring that procedures are followed have not been dismissed. The image of the British nuclear industry is bad enough without blatant disregard for safety or basic training.
Ed Moore, UK

As an old electrical engineer said to me about nuclear power - it isn't the production electricity that is the problem, it's what you do with the leftovers. How true!
Keith Mendum, UK

They would be best advised to close the whole plant. The lake-district is considered a polluted area to visit by many this side of the channel
J. C. Speakman, The Netherlands

Well it seems after a change of "Names" that nothing has really altered! Do BNFL never learn. We can not wait for them to have a REAL accident, because of their lying ways. The management must be made to face up to their stupid actions.
Mel Avery, Oman



Perhaps the safety culture at Sellafield would be more rigorous if senior management were forced, by law, to live within a three mile radius of the plant?

Mark Leach, Ireland
I have an open mind. Sure, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl were terrible but they are a quantum leap from a mere particle the size of a grain of sand from Dounreay. BIG DEAL! That they were able to detect it at all says a great deal for the skills of the Nuclear Power Industry, and it was probably a harmless Alpha Particle anyway, not a Gamma Emitter. Let's face it, coal and oil burning Power Stations cause less sensational but dangerous pollution, acid rain etc. I would hope that research on cleaner Nuclear Fusion power would be given more funding. Finally, I would feel much safer if the State owned and run Nuclear Power totally and it was not subject to the profit motive.
Steve Foley, England

Why on earth are we still talking about the safety or otherwise of nuclear power when it has been shown, time and time again to be dangerous? The life span of uranium is many thousands of years and it causes cancer. The higher numbers of birth defects and cancers in areas around nuclear plants is not an accident. When are we going to look at alternate renewable forms of energy and resign nuclear power to the 20th century where it belongs?
Grainne Phillips, Ireland

YES, it can be safe, as has been proved time and time again, by Euratom, the European Union's atomic energy research council (the world's leading authority on nuclear fusion). BUT, as ever, it is the selfish money-hungry politicians who are slowing the movement down, and cheating the system, so that this safe technology cannot be brought into use.
Benoit Froger, Netherlands

To Jason and John Smith, I was told in School Physics lessons that the Alpha Particle was the least dangerous as it could be stopped by a simple sheet of paper and saw this demonstrated with an Alpha Source and a Geiger Counter. So I would think that clothing would stop one in most cases. Is this correct, or has science changed that much in 30 years in this respect? I wonder what other businesses falsify QA documents, given the bureaucracy of ISO 9002 etc and with what risks?
Steve Foley, England

This affair gives a whole new meaning to the term "The British Disease".
Sigmar Thormar, Iceland

Magnox reprocessing in this country must continue, otherwise several nuclear power stations would have to close immediately otherwise. However, the plutonium recycling business at Sellafield has been jeopardised by lazy workers and slack management practices. This will cost BNFL dearly in foreign MOX contracts. Indeed, Kansai were the major customers, and if they cannot be persuaded to use MOX, the Mox Demonstration Facility is dead in the water. This then begs the question about the plutonium accumulating at Sellafield. The waste from foreign reprocessing MUST be sent back to the originating country, but would we feel comfortable shipping pure plutonium back to the Japanese ? Further, what is BNFL going to do about the hundred or so tonnes of plutonium separated from civilian reprocessing that has been accumulating at Sellafield ? After the closure of Dounreay Breeder reactor in 1994 and no plans for MOX use in Sizewell B, (the only reactor that can use MOX) there is no use for plutonium. In my opinion it should be declared waste for incorporation into Vitirified High Level Waste.
Paul Moore, UK

I cannot believe the ignorance of someof the people who have made clear their opinions that all nuclear power stations should be closed down. Nuclear power has safely powered our homes for decades and if people bothered to check their facts (or better still do a degree in electrical engineering) they would realise that if safety procedures are followed (as applies to most industries) nuclear power is a safe and necessary form of electrical energy. Chernobyl was caused by forcing one of the 4 reactors into an emergency situation for testing purposes, and then human error led to tragedy - it was not a problem with the reactor itself. The bottom line is that until nuclear fusion is developed beyond the research we need nuclear fission reactors - although since this form of energy production also has the word "nuclear" in it the ignorant public will probably oppose this.
Dr J. Bates (electrical engineer), UK

Is anywhere safe nowadays? I live in a cave in the mountains where all of this fallout tends to collect and I am scared witless. At least all of the aliens have been scared off and I am no longer being probed on a regular basis.
Mike Groves, England

I drink Shandy and am a tax advisor. Therefore I believe that the future is in nuclear power not fossil fuels. Working in a tax department all day you tend to get allergies that are exacerbated by fossil fuels. We need more nuclear power not less.
Steve McMullen, England

Working at a nuclear power plant made me sterile. The safety there makes Homer Simpson's Springfield power plant look efficient. Mind you, a lot of the problems were down to me so I can't really complain.
Matthew Howell, England

You 'poms' don't know how safe your power plants are. In Australia, nuclear waste is just dumped in the outback, but at least the glow provides free lighting at night and you should see the size of the kangeroos I can catch around there. I once caught a 30 foot tall kangeroo 2 miles from the Wollonger nuclear dump. It fed the family for five weeks. Now that's hunting.
George Toulantas, Australia

While there is doubtless a good case for a drastic review within the management of Sellafield, the case has been blown out of proportion. Inevitably, the various minority pressure groups think it's Christmas. Nuclear energy has the best safety record of any industrial process, and in terms of economic renewable resources, it must have a future. The appalling spill of toxic chemicals into the Danube is a much more serious issue, so please let's stop trying to destroy UK plc in the world market, and adopt a more positive attittude towards our unique selling points.
Robert Fletcher, UK

It's not dangerous and I know that for a fact. It doesn't run out whereas everything else will in a few decades time. Plus its FAB
Emma, UK

Clearly unacceptable behaviour. Can a safety analogy be drawn between flying/driving and nuclear/fossil fuels? Any views expressed are my own.
James Morrow, UK

There will always be a Sellafield problem as long as we keep digging uranium out of holes like Jabbaluka right in the middle of our so called heritage protected reserve in Northern Australia. Ask any mining magnate to stop and the answer will be "GET STUFFED MATE, IT"S GOOD FOR THE NATIONAL ECONOMY" Atomic Power is big money, and governments like BIG money! Sorry guys but your outcries are too late, it's in the national interest now, you'll just have to bear with it and countless white papers until the next time somebody drops a spent fuel rod on the PM's lap
Brian, Australia

Nuclear power has, arguably, had less negative impact on the environment (per unit of energy produced) than any type of carbon-fuel power generation, which is destroying the planet at a fast clip [keyword: Ozone layer]. "Renewable" resources like hydroelectric power flood massive regions and wreak their own quiet disasters [keyword: Aswan Dam or Three Gorges Dam]. That a 'for profit' company has cut corners should surprise no one. Despite BNFL's bungling nuclear power is about as good and as safe as we are ever going to get.
Kristian, Canada

Were the safety rules written by Homer Simpson or just applied by him?
Paul Lauff, Germany

To generate electricity we require a source of fuel. Coal and Gas are in limited quantities so water, solar, wind, gas, thermo, and nuclear are left to fall back on. And we are going to need all of them to supply our power needs of the future. Many people are calling for the closure of nuclear power stations and reprocessing plants but are not willing to tackle the problem of radioactive waste. low level waste can de disposed of easily. High level waste is going to have to be re-processed and then placed in long-term storage but has a suitable site been found? Until this has been dealt with once and for all the problem is not going to go away no matter how hard you try to ignore it!
Paul Jonas, United Kingdom

What a shame that one of the most beautiful parts of England is also one of the most dangerous! How many have died of cancer since it's inception from leaks into the sea? How many more will it take for the government to do something about this insidious monster?
Pamela Mosconi, USA

A least the nuclear industry regulators are taking action before safety is put at risk. If only the same scrutiny had been applied to Railtrack before Paddington!
Liz, U.K.

An absolute disgrace We cannot trust the safety records; are these too falsified? Sellafield must close down and put Ireland and her people out of risk! A group of liars running a nuclear plant; I'd have more faith in Homer Simpson or Monty Burns!!!
Patrick McSharry, Ireland

According to today's news, something like five thousand people die needlessly in NHS hospitals each year due to unchecked infections. But that's OK, isn't it. It's not nuclear. Just like being killed in a car is an accident whereas being killed in a plane is a disaster.
Jon Livesey, USA

First and foremost, the cultural behaviour of an organisation spreads from the top down not the bottom up (unless we are talking about a revolution, but not in this case). Therefore, the UK government and the NII , in particular, are right to castigate the senior management of BNFL. However, I wouldn't be focussing just on the management at Sellafield. These are managers who take policy and directives from the BNFL board and interpret and implement accordingly (with, one would presume, the endorsement of the board). Thus to bring some order out of this mess, there is no option but to demand that changes start at boardroom level, not just the functional levels. In fact the honourable course of action would be for those responsible for operations, quality, safety, engineering and HR to resign now, not wait for a ministerial edict.
Matt , USA

BNFL are a bunch of crooks. The Japanese are fools for wanting to buy the stuff in the first place. New Zealanders are sick of both countries carting plutonium past our shores. Get a grip and stop producing the filthy stuff.
Birch, New Zealand

This is scary. It is the government who failed to detect this kind of practice.
Rupesh, India

Mr. Pete Roche of Greenpeace UK has it right - "the whole plutonium business is rotten to the core." Plutonium removed from nuclear fuel presents proliferation risks and safety concerns and should be handled as nuclear waste. BNFL and the UK government should immediately begin a program to classify the 70-tonne plutonium stockpile at Sellafield with existing high-level waste. Tom Clements, Nuclear Control Institute, Washington, DC
Tom Clements, USA

BNFL is leading a consortium to take over the management of the Atomic Weapons Establishments (AWE) Aldermaston & Burghfield on 1st April (no fooling). AWE produces Trident nuclear warheads and there are already many problems with safety at AWE. but the response to concerns about safety from AWE is: "Although AWE management Ltd is a consortium of BNFL, Lockheed and SERCO, the parent companies will not have management responsibilities. Individuals from the parent companies will be on the AWE-ML management team. They have been carefully vetted by the MoD and must be approved by the regulator. Matters affecting parent companies are for the parent companies to comment upon and have no bearing on the management of AWE".
Nuclear Information Service, UK

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17 Feb 00 | Latest News
Nuclear plant records faked
18 Feb 00 | Asia-Pacific
Japan vents fury on BNFL
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