23 August 2001 Edition

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Sellafield looks for government bailout

Just a week after launching their annual report, with the theme that nuclear power was ``for today, for tomorrow'', the loss making British Nuclear Fuels is negotiating a multimillion pound bail-out with the British government to dismantle its aging reactors.

Part of the problem and the high costs of decommissioning is that the people who built the nuclear facilities did not think about how they would be dismantled. BNFL now wants to be paid performance bonuses for dismantling the facilities.

If that wasn't disheartening enough, an interview by Brian Watson, manager of the Sellafield nuclear site, offered an appalling insight into what things are like at the plant, which only made £3 million profit last year.

Watson said: ``When people don't comply with basic rules I go bananas.'' So what basic safety rules were the 10,000-plus workers at the different Sellafield facilities flaunting? Well, apart from not performing safety checks, some staff were speeding around the 6km square site, where the world's largest store of dangerous nuclear waste is held. Workers were also found to be eating foodstuffs in hazardous areas.

Last year, there were three critical reports on safety at Sellafield. Watson claimed that the recommendations on two had been met and the third report's recommendations would be met by October.

Time will tell if Sellafield can live up to its own management's expectations, never mind that of a very concerned public.

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