Letter: Nuclear terrorism

Click to follow
Sir: It appears that the Government is about to undermine much of its early good work on trying to establish a rational and practical policy on the future of the nuclear industry. The announcement on 18 January by John Battle, the Energy Secretary, that plutonium is to be shipped from Sellafield to Japan in the form of MOX (mixed oxide) fuel sits uncomfortably with the Environment Agency's October 1998 report on the Sellafield MOX Plant (SMP).

Our concerns about nuclear proliferation seemed to have been accepted by the Environment Agency in the conclusion that "separated plutonium is generally described as weapons-grade or civil grade. For most practical purposes the grade does not affect the arguments concerning weapons proliferation".

They further state that "it would be a relatively straightforward matter to undertake chemical separation of plutonium from MOX fuel. It is debatable how easy it would then be to assemble the plutonium into a crude nuclear device capable of exploding. However, a terrorist group would arguably be able to exercise considerable power by merely threatening to explode such a weapon".

Following two periods of public consultation and comment on BNFL's application to commission the SMP and the Environment Agency's report to government, which has not elicited any formal announcement, is it not premature to talk of arrangements for shipping MOX fuel to a country which is undecided about the questionable merits of burning it in conventional reactors?

We urge the Government to declare that it will not permit BNFL's ships to leave Barrow-in-Furness docks.

MARTIN FORWOOD

Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment

PAD GREEN

Friends of the Earth

Cllr MARTIN HEMINGWAY

Nuclear Free Local Authorities

DAVE KNIGHT

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

PAUL LEVENTHAL

Nuclear Control Institute, Washington DC

PETE ROCHE

Greenpeace UK

MIKE TOWNSLEY

Greenpeace International

Penrith, Cumbria

Comments