The words of the month
ONE CAN BUY THE CASE FOR SELLAFIELD ANY LONGER"
worst argument for keeping the nuclear-fuel reprocessing plant at Sellafield
going is that it employs a lot of people. But it is hard to escape the
conclusion that that is almost the only reason why BNFL still exists.
The reprocessing industry was set up to produce the enriched plutonium
originally needed for nuclear weapons, and it has managed to keep going
as the supplier of fuel to new kinds of nuclear power stations that
have so far failed to produce electricity at an economical price."
Independent, 12 February 2000
(UK Daily Paper which revealed the quality control falsification issue)
"If the managers of British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) were
secretly in the pay of green lobbyists working to shut down Britain's
nuclear industry, they could scarcely have done a better job. (...)"
"The focus today on reprocessing dates back to Cold
War days when uranium was expensive. Today it is cheap and there is a
case to be examined for BNFL scrapping its reprocessing facilities, either
charging clients to store waste instead or developing its other concerns."
Times, Editorial, 19 February 2000
Japan and Germany pull out, BNFL's sales of MOX fuel - and a new plant
it has constructed to make it - will be doomed. And the rationale of
its mainbusiness, reprocessing used nuclear fuel, will disappear."
Independent on Sunday, 20 February 2000
"Pressure is mounting for top-level sackings at Sellafield
today as the nuclear plant faces its worst crisis in 30 years. (...)"
BNFL's most recent Environment, Health & Safety (EH&S)
report, "Responsible for safety and care for the environment", released
last October, carries a verification statement by Lloyd's Register Quality
Assurance Ltd (LRQA).
The statement says that "the sites (including Sellafield)
visited by LRQA were well run with management and staff committed to
EH&S management. Mechanisms for achieving improvements in EH&S performance
at site level were consistent with corporate objectives".
One of the NII reports, on the Health & Safety Executive
(HSE) team inspection of the control and supervision of operations at
BNFL's Sellafield site, issued last Friday states as one of three main
conclusions that "there is a lack of high quality safety managemeent
system across the site which is compounded by an overly complex management
News & Star, 19 February 2000,
under the headline "DAMNED"
said yesterday that workers at the mixed oxide plant had measured the
batch of pellets as required and were sure they were safe and to specification,
but the computer had crashed and the data had been lost. Rather than
do the work again, they falsified the data, copying from a previous
batch. The fuel was then made into rods, delivered to the German company
and placed in the reactor."
Guardian, London, 23 February 2000
What a Waste
Privatization Bye, Bye...?
story is unusual, to say the least. The only other case, one can recall,
is the falsification of welding x-rays in certain French nuclear power
plants years ago. When the UK Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII)
published its damning report on "MOX fuel data falsification at BNFL,
Sellafield", on 18 February 2000, the story had been around for a few
months, but few expected such a harsh and unusual judgment by the safety
authorities: "In particular, the deficiencies found in the quality checking
process will have to be rectified, the management of the plant improved
and operators either replaced or retrained to bring the safety culture
in the plant up to standard the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) requires
for a nuclear installation". (Download a PDF version of the full report
the meantime the incriminated plant remains shut down. The plant, that
is the MOX Demonstration Facility (MDF) at Sellafield, close to the
THORP reprocessing facility, also operated by BNFL. The NII chief inspector,
Lawrence Williams, said at the press conference launching the reports,
that he would withdraw the operating licence for THORP if safety upgrades
in the high level liquid radioactive wastes storage tanks at Sellafield
were not implemented within the tough timeframe the NII set out. And
the large 120 t Sellafield MOX Plant (SMP) is still waiting for a license
to operate. Hard to imagine that this will happen soon. Even more uncertain
seems the planned 49% privatization of BNFL. Who wants to buy a sinking