June 2002

Secrecy clamp prevents assessment of Sellafield risk

Irish Independent, June 24, 2002
By Treacy Hogan, Environment Correspondent

Original address: http://www.unison.ie/irish_independent/stories.php3?ca=9&si=777446&issue_id=7622

[Posted 24/06/2002]

THE Irish Radiological Protection Institute is unable to assess claims by the UK authorities about anti-terrorist security at Sellafield because of a clampdown on sensitive information, it has been learned.

The State body told the Environment Department that briefings by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd and the UK's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate did not provide it with enough details - with the result that it cannot evaluate British conclusions that stringent security precautions are being taken to protect nuclear sites from air attacks.

BNFL has insisted that highly radioactive liquid storage tanks at Sellafield can withstand a large plane being deliberately crashing into them.

Meanwhile, Environment Minister Martin Cullen has revealed that the issue of security at Sellafield was raised at a meeting between the NII and RPII, but the NII's chief inspector indicated that he was under instructions not to discuss these arrangements.

The RPII had also met the BNFL in Dublin, at which the nuclear company assured the institute that the high-level, radioactive liquid waste storage tanks at Sellafield were strong enough to withstand an attack by a large aircraft.

The minister said the UK's Office For Civil Nuclear Security had reported stringent security precautions were being taken to protect civil nuclear sites, commensurate with current threats.

"However, the RPII advised my department that due to UK security restrictions, neither BNFL nor NII briefings nor the OCNS report provide sufficient technical detail to enable the RPII evaluate these conclusions," Mr Cullen added.

Following approaches by his department to the UK authorities seeking information "on the consequences of a major terrorist attack on Sellafield," a meeting was offered between the director of the Office for Civil Nuclear Security and the RPII. This will be held next month and will also involve department officials, Mr Cullen disclosed.

In conveying this offer the UK trade department had said that it was not in a position to provide details of security measures being taken at nuclear sites, as it was not government policy to disclose such details.

Mr Cullen added that when the Irish Embassy in London contacted relevant UK departments after the September 11 attacks to find out what security measures were in place at nuclear installations it, too, was told it was not government policy to disclose such details.

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