Supplementary memorandum submitted by
Mr Gordon Thompson (7 May 2002)
Many people, including citizens of Ireland,
have expressed concern about the hazard posed by nuclear facilities
in the UK. Particular concern has been expressed about the facilities
at Sellafield. However, the UK government does not share this
concern. Prime Minister Tony Blair's position is that there is
a lack of "sufficient evidence from the relevant bodies"
that a problem exists at Sellafield.
In this paper, the Prime Minister's position
is contrasted with positions set forth by the Royal Society and
the Institute for Resource and Security Studies (IRSS). The positions
of the Royal Society and IRSS are not identical, but both stand
in marked contrast with the position of the Prime Minister. In
illustration, the Royal Society says: "With the events of
11 September 2001 in mind, we advocate an urgent safety review
which should take into account the possibility of extreme terrorist
intervention." IRSS says: "The UK government and the
nuclear industry have been warned on numerous occasions that civilian
nuclear facilities are tempting targets for enemy action .......
The consistent response of government and industry to these warnings
has been to ignore or rebuff them."
It is important to determine whose position
is correct. IRSS has set forth a process that can help to make
this determination. Specifically, we have recommended that the
Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology be tasked to conduct
a thorough, independent analysis, to be performed by an expert
group with members from inside and outside the UK.
Section 2 of this paper contains a quote from
Hansard, wherein the Prime Minister states his position. Other
statements by the Prime Minister have been consistent with the
statement that is quoted. Sections 3 and 4 of this paper quote
documents published by the Royal Society and IRSS, respectively.
2. THE PRIME
(Source: UK House of Commons Official Report
(Hansard), 1 May 2002: Column 941)
Mr John Hume (Foyle): "Will
the Prime Minister confirm that he has received the largest amount
of correspondence from individuals on one subject that any Prime
Minister has ever received, given that more than one million cards
have been received from citizens across Ireland expressing their
deep concern about the safety of the Sellafield nuclear plant?
Is he prepared to take the necessary steps to remove those concerns?"
The Prime Minister: "I am aware
of the concern that has been expressed. However, the Sellafield
plant and any other plants in this country are subject to the
strictest national and international standards. Those standards
are regularly reviewed. The plants are regularly inspected and
none of those inspections has ever found a problem, such as the
problem alleged in the press and by other political parties. Of
course we take the concerns seriously, but there is a proper procedure
and it would be wrong to close down nuclear facilities or start
putting large numbers of people out of work without sufficient
evidence from the relevant bodies to back it up."
3. THE ROYAL
(Royal Society Source #1: The Royal Society,
Developing UK policy for the management of radioactive waste,
Excerpt from paragraph 2.2: "Reprocessing
recovers fissile uranium and plutonium together with highly radioactive
and very hazardous liquids, which are energetic and mobile and
have a very high natural tendency to disperse. Although tanks
at Windscale have been in operation without leakage for around
50 years, the need for further consideration of long-term management
of waste cannot be ignored."
Paragraph 4.2: "The accumulated
HLW and ILW from earlier phases of both civil and military nuclear
activities should be conditioned to forms that are passively safe
and robustly stored. This means a requirement for the minimum
of active management in order to protect the biosphere from harmful
dispersal by either natural processes or rogue human intervention.
With the events of 11 September 2001 in mind, an urgent safety
review should take into account the possibility of extreme terrorist
Excerpt from Summary: "International
involvement, especially through the European Union, should be
an essential element of future research on the problems of radioactive
waste. Although this response concerns the UK, we recommend that
European and other international collaborations (including the
USA) should be explored in parallel with the present consultations.
With the events of 11 September 2001 in mind, we advocate an urgent
safety review which should take into account the possibility of
extreme terrorist intervention."
(Royal Society Source #2: The Royal Society,
Management of Separated Plutonium, February 1998)
Recommendation No 1: "The current
stock of civil separated plutonium in the UK is about 54 t and
is forecast to rise to over 100 t by 2010. There is a growing
international consensus that a large stockpile of separated plutonium
may pose a significant environmental and security (proliferation)
risk. We recommend that the Government reviews the strategy and
options for stabilising and then reducing the stockpile."
4. IRSS'S POSITION
(IRSS Source #1: Institute for Resource and
Security Studies, High Level Radioactive Liquid Waste at Sellafield:
Risks, Alternative Options and Lessons for Policy, June 1998)
"C1. Sellafield's stock of liquid HLW
represents one of the world's most dangerous concentrations of
long-lived radioactive material.
C2. The danger posed by the liquid HLW tanks
has not received proper attention from the responsible authorities,
because of systemic weaknesses in nuclear safety regulation in
C3. The danger posed by the liquid HLW tanks
could have been avoided decades ago if the plant had been designed
differently, and persists now only because plutonium separation
continues at Sellafield.
C4. Plutonium separation is uneconomic,
a threat to international security and a source of environmental
C5. A suspension of reprocessing at Sellafield
would allow the site inventory of liquid HLW to be converted comparatively
quickly to vitrified waste containers, a safer storage mode. Moreover,
a suspension of reprocessing would eliminate a potential, proven
by experience at reprocessing plants, for a destructive chemical
explosion at Sellafield.
C6. A suspension of reprocessing would yield
a net economic benefit to citizens and taxpayers of affected countries.
Realisation and equitable distribution of this benefit would require
the renegotiation of reprocessing contracts."
(IRSS Source #2: Institute of Resource and Security
Studies, Civilian Nuclear Facilities as Weapons for an Enemy:
A submission to the House of Commons Defence Committee, 3