Pressure grows to sack Sellafield chiefs over false nuclear safety records

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The Independent Online

The Government is under pressure to sack executives at Sellafield and overhaul its safety regime after six European governments protested yesterday over the falsification of nuclear fuel safety records.

The Government is under pressure to sack executives at Sellafield and overhaul its safety regime after six European governments protested yesterday over the falsification of nuclear fuel safety records.

Five Scandinavian countries in the Nordic Council demanded that Britain stop all radioactive discharges into the Irish Sea from Sellafield after last Friday's damning report on standards at the British Nuclear Fuels plant.

Environment ministers from Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Iceland said the council viewed the nuclear installations inspectorate report with "great concern". Svend Auken, the Danish minister, called for urgent talks with Britain. He said it was "unpleasant to have a report which shows how poorly the safety work at Sellafield functions".

The council warned it would force Britain to meet its promise to stop Sellafield's radioactive waste discharges into the sea by 2020 at the Ospar Convention marine pollution conference in Copenhagen this June.

"The lack of safety controls poses serious questions about reprocessing used nuclear fuels and strengthens demands for drastic and immediate improvements at Sellafield," the council said.

Their remarks will alarm ministers. The Irish government, which sent officials for talks with nuclear safety officials in London, have stepped up demands for Sellafield to be closed. BNFL is also caught in an embarrassing row over its mishandling of safety data with the German federal environment minister, Jurgen Trittin, and a German nuclear power company, PreussenElektra.

The company said yesterday it was "surprised and annoyed" by admissions from BNFL that data for four nuclear fuel rods it supplied had been "falsified'. A technician had mistakenly deleted safety data and replaced it by copying earlier data to save repeating the work.

PreussenElektra had been alerted to the error, which did not affect the quality of the fuel, but it had believed the documentation was simply "deficient". It claimed BNFL did not say the data had been falsified.

A spokesman for Mr Trittin, a senior Green Party minister in Germany's SPD/Green coalition who wants Germany's nuclear power stations closed, talked of "a systematic neglect of safety standards". Iceland's Foreign Minister, Halldór Asgrímsson, will warn Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, when they meet in London on Friday of his government's fears that radioactive discharges into the Irish Sea could cripple Iceland's fishing industries.

A spokesman for Mr Asgrímsson said: "If something happened at Sellafield it could devastate our economy in two or three years. The Icelandic authorities expect that information concerning this situation is correct, forthcoming and reliable."

A Department of Trade and Industry spokesman insisted the concerns would be addressed by the new inquiry into the data scandal, and said ministers shared the anger over the events at Sellafield.

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