January 1999

British MP opens up Reprocessing Debate

[Posted 28/01/1999]

This Letter was sent by a British Socialist MP to the Newspapers to help take Forward the complex Debate and encourage a full Participation in the Decision.

The Editor
The Independent
1 Canada Square


Dear Sir,

The decision of the SPD/Green German Government to honor their electoral pledge to wind down the German nuclear programme and pull out of reprocessing at Sellafield and La Hague in France , (" UK warns Germany in nuclear fuel row 21 January ") should be seen by Ministers as an opportunity, not a blow.

As a politician who has completed two reports on Sellafield for the European Parliament and has since asked hundreds of questions at Westminster on Sellafield, and reprocessing, over the past 15 years , I think this inevitable development should be seen as one of " gain, not pain " to borrow John Prescott's rousing phrase describing the positive aspects of climate change policy for British industry;

When British Ministers meet their German colleagues following this week's opening gambit - and in subsequent months - to work out the most equitable and environmentally sustainable way of " existing " reprocessing at Sellafield, they could do no better thah to follow the constructive example of France in creating a multifaced, bilateral high-level working group to address the issue.

Germany has sensibly and generously given BNFL a whole year to work out the optimum alternatives in respect of technical, legal, economic and employment issues.

BNFL should not use this time to bluster that current contracts should remain unaltered, but seek imaginative alternative work in plutonium immobilization, waste management and remediation expertise, already began by the BNFL Inc in the USA.

Nearly eleven years ago, John Prescott was told in a Parliamentary answer of 9 March 1988 that the then Tory Government intended that radioactive wastes arising from foreign nuclear materials treated at Sellafield " should be returned " (Hansard Column 201).

He is now in an excellent position to negotiate a feasible time table to carry this out as the responsible minister.

Energy Minister John Battle conceded in a written reply on 18 January (Parliamentary report, 19 January ) (Hansard Columns 364-365) that armed escorts will be needed to transport Plutonium from Sellafield back to consumer countries. Sadly, this gross militarisation of the transport of waste and recycled nuclear materials is a penalty for the folly of Sellafield's plutonium dream.

Yours sincerly


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