19 February 2004 Edition
Fight to shut Sellafield continues - Morgan addresses London conference
On Friday last 13 February, Louth TD and Sinn Féin spokesperson on the Environment Arthur Morgan travelled to London to address a conference on Sellafield organised by the Norwegian-based Bellona Foundation.
The Conference was also addressed by Børge Brende, Norwegian Environment Minister; Asmund Kristoffersen, Chairman of the Nordic Council Environment and Natural Resources Committee; Frederic Hauge, Director of the Bellona Environment Foundation; Bruce McKirdy of NIREX; and Rex Strong, Head of Environmental Management at BNFL.
The conference focused on Technetium-99 (TC99) discharges from Sellafield, which remain a major cause of worry for Irish people. The conference heard of a new development pioneered by Bellona, known as TPP, which offers the possibility of reducing the level of emissions of TC99, which has a half life 214,000 years and is among the highest rates of emissions from Sellafield currently. Testing of the process has commenced at Sellafield following pressure from the Norwegian Government and Bellona. The conference discussed the initial results of those trials.
Speaking following the conference, Morgan said
"The TPP process involves washing the TC99 and initial trials have been successful in achieving this. So far, the Norwegian environmental group Bellona, who worked with BNFL in developing this process, are completely satisfied that this is a breakthrough in terms of reduced emissions. My own view is that this process will require very careful monitoring over a long period of time to demonstrate its feasibility.
"Naturally, we will require some convincing of the veracity of such claims and, no doubt, a period of time and vigorous checking to place trust in any such process. This has nothing to do with a mistrust of Bellona. Rather, we have a deep-rooted mistrust of anything to do with BNFL and Sellafield.
"After all, how could any reasonable person be expected to believe anything BNFL would say, given their history and performance to date. While I would welcome any reduction of pollution emissions, I would settle for nothing less than a closure of this environmental monstrosity. That is the demand of the Irish people and it is my demand also."
Morgan also criticised a proposal from BNFL, put forward at the conference by NIREX, for the disposal of waste by burying it underground at a time when the use of landfill of all other forms of waste is becoming obsolete.
Morgan had given a presentation at the conference entitled "Sellafield: An Irish Perspective". He had outlined the Irish experience regarding the lack of accountability from BNFL and Sellafield, dating from the 1957 Windscale accident to the current lack of concern at the high incidents of cancer on the east coast of Ireland. The full implications of the 1957 Windscale incident for people living on the East coast of Ireland emerged only after Dr Patricia Sheehan carried out studies in a girls' secondary school in Dundalk in the late 1960s, which found an abnormally high number of Downs syndrome births in former pupils at the school.
Outlining how Ireland had rejected the nuclear option proposed for Carnsore Point in the 1970s, Arthur said: "Having rejected the nuclear option on our own shores, Irish people have long been concerned by the consequences for their health from the nuclear reprocessing installation at Sellafield. The 1985 disaster of Chernobyl in the Ukraine further solidified the Irish perspective on Sellafield. It showed the future for Ireland in the event of a similar disaster taking place in Sellafield."
Morgan welcomed the fact that the conference had brought together such a large number of interested parties, including those with very different perspectives, to discuss the Sellafield situation. He said: "It is vital that all governments, communities and organisations who wish to have the reprocessing plant at Sellafield closed, cooperate and work together to ensure a safer future for us all. This Conference is a very welcome development in that respect. My Sinn Féin colleagues on both sides of the border and myself will continue to fight for the full closure of Sellafield."