UK nuclear plant under pressure to close : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

WIRE:03/24/2000 22:10:00 ET UK nuclear plant under pressure to close-papers

LONDON, March 25 (Reuters) - A controversial British nuclear reprocessing plant may be forced to shut down because of mounting international pressure, newspapers reported on Saturday. Denmark, Iceland and Ireland were planning to invoke environmental treaties on radiation emissions to force reprocessing to be suspended at the Sellafield plant, Britain's Guardian newspaper said.

"International treaties may force Sellafield's closure," the paper said in a front page headline.

The governments are worried about Sellafield's emissions into the sea, the Independent newspaper reported.

British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), which owns the plant, said there was no question of abandoning reprocessing work, but the Department of Trade and Industry appeared to stop short of supporting the company. It had said the future of reprocessing was a commercial issue, the paper added.

The environmental furore adds to a catalogue of difficulties for the state-owned reprocessing company.

Swiss authorities suspended shipments of spent fuel to Britian following similar bans by Germany, Japan and Sweden all of which have been angered by a safety scandal at the the company.

BNFL also faces increased scrutiny over its U.S. operations after Britain's nuclear safety watchdog detailed "systematic management failure" at Sellafield in a February report and said a lax safety culture allowed some staff to falsify data on certain consigments of mixed oxide fuel sent overseas.

The safety scandal cost former BNFL chief executive John Taylor his job and has destroyed government plans to sell off 49 percent of the company before the next election, due within two years.

The government has given BNFL two months to develop a strategy or face the risk of closure.

The Independent reported that Japanese politicians intended to veto any further business with BNFL unless the company took back a shipment of mixed oxide pellets which were improperly tested for safety and delivered to Japan six months ago.

Taking the pellets back could prove a struggle for BNFL considering that the shipment out to Japan had an escort of warships and faced environmental protests.

BNFL has said Britain's nuclear watchdog affirms that Sellafield is safe despite the safety lapses

-- Martin Thompson (, March 24, 2000

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