31st March 2003
Sellafield - the ending of an era yet the demand for total closure still continues to grow
Sinn Fein South Down councillor Willie Clarke commenting on the closure of the world's first commercial nuclear power station at Sellafield has said that while it is the ending of an era that the demand for the total closure of Sellafield continues to grow. Calder Hall, the oldest Magnox power station owned by British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) is to shut down tomorrow after nearly 47 years in operation.
Cllr Clark said:
``This is the ending of an era but it must signal an intensification of the campaign for the total closure of all remaining nuclear generators at Sellafield.
``A number of Sinn Fein elected representatives have visited the Sellafield Nuclear Plant in the last twelve months and the dangerous and volatile nature of the Sellafield plant was dramatically highlighted in January when in the course of one visit of the facility a lithium nitrate leak occurred which led to workers in plant being evacuated. Lithium is an unstable substance that poses the risk of a dangerous explosion and if inhaled has a damaging effect on the central nervous and respiratory systems.
``Political parties across this island need to wake up to the dangers of the nuclear industry in Britain, especially given its' poor safety record. Sellafield must be closed and there must be an immediate end again to the dumping of nuclear waste in the Irish Sea.
``The negative long-term impact Sellafield has had on the environment and the potential it has for causing a catastrophe cannot be overstated. Sellafield has an abysmal safety record, which is borne out by a recent Government inspectorate that threatened to shut the plant down because it failed to meet basic safety requirements. An investigation into the dispatchment of nuclear waste to Japan in 1999 showed that data had been systematically falsified. The appalling reputation of Sellafield is well merited.
``The concerted efforts of BNFL to allay the public fears do not stand up to scrutiny:
- A Greenpeace survey to the University of Breman in 1998 which analysed soil samples from around the area of the plant and reached the conclusion that the region was as heavily contaminated with radioactivity as the zone around the Chernobyl reactor in Ukraine.
- The pollution of the Irish Sea can be directly attributed to Sellafield and other nuclear plants which surround the region. Studies have shown the accumulation of Technetium-99 in shellfish, particularly lobsters that are now 92 times more radioactive than they were 10 years ago and are 30 times over the EU limit for consumption.
- Plutonium dust washed inshore is thought to potentially cause cancer and birth defects clusters.
``The most graphic illustration of the danger Sellafield poses to the Irish public is seen in the high rate of cancer cases in the East Coast of Ireland. Children living close to the Irish Sea are on average 4.6 times more likely to contract Leukaemia. Statistics show a reduction in risk with distance from the seashore and appear to give credence to the belief that seashore spray carries radioactive particles several kilometres inland. Dundalk, which lies 60 miles west of Sellafield, has a cancer rate 12% higher that the Irish average.
``September the 11th has shown how vulnerable an installation like Sellafield is to attack. The result of such an attack would be devastating to the island of Ireland and the determination of the US and British Governments to wage war on Iraq can only increase this threat. This plant must close therefore, and the concerns of the Irish people must be addressed by the British government.''
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