Sellafield leak fuels further fallout of Irish ire

A contained leak at Sellafield's Thorp reprocessing facility has rekindled Irish condemnation of the plant's safety record.

Sellafield has long been a cause of tension between London and Dublin, sited as it on the Irish Sea.

It is also unpopular with Britain's European neighbours, with Germany and the Scandinavian states all wanting tighter safety measures or, preferably, its decommissioning(see related story).

Following earlier Irish concerns, the UK has now agreed to go further on sharing information revealed from investigations into incidents at the controversial plant. Last Friday the Irish Ministry for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government was updated on a leak discovered in January.

A pipe had developed a leak, but a secondary containment cell had ensured no radioactive material was released into the environment.

The Irish Government argues the problem should have been spotted sooner, however, and says the incident highlights the dangers of a reprocessing plant on its doorstep.

"The pattern with Sellafield is well established and consistent," said Minister Dick Roche.

"A serious incident occurs, the investigation reveals serious safety failures and weaknesses, recommendations are drawn up and implemented, and further assurances given that the plant is safe.

"However, this pattern is untenable and the safety record at the plant has given the Irish Government serious cause for concern for some time.

"This latest information serves only to increase the concerns of the Government and to reinforce our efforts to secure the safe and orderly closure of Sellafield."

The Minister also made known that he had raised the Thorp incident with the European Commissioner for Energy, Andris Piebalgs.

"I brought the Commissioner's attention to the Thorp incident and reminding the Commission of the importance of outside, independent inspections for nuclear installations," he said.

"This is an issue I intend to press with like minded countries within the EU, concluded Minister Roche."

By Sam Bond


| nuclear


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