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Calls for Sellafield to be closed down after investigation exposes safety concerns

BBC Panorama found that radioactive materials have been stored in degrading plastic bottles.

Updated 7.15pm

sella Sellafield nuclear plant Source: Owen Humphreys/PA Archive/Press Association Images

IRISH POLITICIANS HAVE called for Sellafield nuclear plant in England to be closed down after an investigation by BBC’s Panorama uncovered several safety concerns.

The programme found that parts of the plant in Cumbria regularly have too few staff to operate safely and that radioactive materials have been stored in degrading plastic bottles.

The investigation was prompted by a whistleblower, with Panorama being told parts of the facility are dangerously rundown.

The whistleblower, a former senior manager, said: “If there is a fire there it could generate a plume of radiological waste that will go across Western Europe.”

Sinn Féin leader and Louth TD Gerry Adams has called on the Government to “demand the complete closure” of the plant.

“While Sellafield may no longer generate energy it is a major nuclear installation with huge amounts of nuclear materials stored on site.

The BBC report revealed that between July 2012 and July 2013 there were 97 incidents where there too few workers available.

“These and the concerns raised in the BBC programme show that Sellafield presents a direct threat to the health and safety of staff and of communities, including the people of Louth.”

Adams added the Government “should now publish in full its 2011 report which concluded there was no health risk from Sellafield but that a severe incident would have an impact on tourism and exports of Irish food”.

‘Endangering Western Europe’ 

The Green Party also called for the plant to be closed down.

Councillor Mark Dearey, who had an 11-year court battle with the British Government over Sellafield, said the Panorama investigation “highlights, yet again, why this hazardous site 100 miles from the Irish coastline remains of such alarm to Irish councils”.

I call on the Irish Government to immediately contact its UK counterpart and demand the issues raised by the Sellafield whistleblower are dealt with urgently.

“A fire in the reprocessing facilities could endanger much of Western Europe. That is why such facilities must be closed down and the priority become completely with the safe management and decommissioning of the entire Sellafield site.”

Minister Denis Naughten said that Sellafield is an ongoing concern for him and the Irish Government.

He discussed the Panorama programme with his senior officials that sit on the UK-Ireland Contact Group on Radiological Matters and requested his officials to contact their UK counterparts in the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to seek a meeting of the UK-Ireland Contact Group on Radiological Matters as early as possible to discuss the programme and other related issues.

This meeting has been agreed to by the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and dates are currently being finalised.

In advance of the full UK-Ireland Group meeting Minister Naughten has requested a meeting with the Irish representatives on the UK-Ireland Contact Group on Radiological Matters. He has also asked for a detailed report on the incidents specifically referred to in the Panorama broadcast and all other safety issues raised.

The Minister “received an assurance from his officials that they are satisfied with the level of disclosures that they continually receive from the Sellafield operator and UK Government officials”.

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Órla Ryan

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