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The BBC's Graham Satchell
"Just what the beleaguered Sellafield site doesn't need"
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The BBC's Joe Campbell
"Sellafield's public image further tarnished"
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Sunday, 26 March, 2000, 06:48 GMT
Saboteur hunt at nuclear plant
Sellafield: Two sabotage attacks in last year
Police are searching for a saboteur who struck at the beleaguered Sellafield nuclear power plant.

Officials at the Cumbrian plant confirmed police are investigating an attack which put out of action robotic equipment, used in areas too dangerous for human workers.

All six unions at the plant have written to their members in an unprecedented move urging them to name whoever carried out the attack.

Jack Dromey, leader of the Transport and General Workers' Union, said: "If there is an individual employee who for whatever reason is putting at risk his safety, the safety of workmates, the safety of the community and the reputation of the company, that is completely unacceptable.

Nuclear workers
Workers urged to name those responsible
"I will not defend the indefensible.

"I support the Sellafield trade unions in calling upon all Sellafield workers to report who is it.

"And when that person is discovered that person should be sacked."

A spokeswoman for the plant's owners, British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNFL) refused to speculate who was responsible or why.

"The investigation began last month after the attack on the maintenance tool, which is not a safety related piece of equipment," a spokeswoman said.

Six master-slave manipulators, which allow machines to be operated from a remote location, were disabled when the wire cables were cut.

Safety not compromised

BNFL said the sabotage disrupted work but did not compromise safety.

"BNFL takes this issue very seriously and the company will initiate appropriate proceedings if any individual or individuals are proven to have caused this damage deliberately," the spokeswoman said.

It is the second instance of sabotage at the plant in the last year.

Sellafield facts
Main activity: Recycling used fuel from nuclear power stations worldwide
It is one of the world's two principal recycling plants (the other is France's La Hague)
Employs more than 10,000 people on site
Mox production is a major new business for the site
Japan was its largest customer for Mox
In September two mixed oxide fuel rods were found to contain a small screw and a small piece of solid debris, which the management suspected were placed deliberately by staff.

An investigation failed to identify how the objects had got there.

The nuclear re-processing plant has been rocked by a number of scandals in recent months.

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

A report into the plant by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) in February revealed safety records had been systematically falsified.

Acid leak

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

The operators of the plant are also being prosecuted over a leak of concentrated nitric acid on 11 March last year, which injured two employees.

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

They are calling for nuclear reprocessing to be suspended, claiming the discharge of tiny traces of radioactivity, which are pumped out from a waste pipe, can be detected in seaweed and shellfish as far away as Norway.

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