Six sacked over safety at Sellafield

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The Independent Online

Six non executive directors have been sacked in a major shakeup of the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant following a report into safety at the site.

British Nuclear Fuels announced major top-level management and safety changes at the troubled Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant.

The two-year scheme, Going Forward Safely, follows a damning report by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate which accused the plant of a "lack of safety culture".

Norman Askew, BNFL's new chief executive - brought in following the NII report in February - said the changes represented a "fresh start" for Sellafield.

But Greenpeace and the Irish Government, which say nuclear reprocessing is contaminating the sea and the site, repeated their calls for the plant to be shut down.

BNFL said a new executive director of health, safety and environment will be brought in to oversee safety at the Cumbrian plant.

Staffing levels will be improved with the creation of 70 new jobs and a new independent team of assessors will monitor safety.

All six non-executive directors at the site will be replaced - along with the finance and human resources directors.

A new top management role will be created with the appointment of four business group general managers, who will report directly to Mr Askew.

Mr Askew said the changes would begin to restore confidence among the countries which have suspended dealings with the plant.

"This is not a one-day wonder, some of these changes will take a year or two. We have started to deliver on some of the issues.

"Delivery is one of the key things in restoring confidence as people see work is being done to deliver on issues."

The NII report followed a scandal when it was discovered workers had used old data to apply to batches of uranium and plutonium mixed-oxide (Mox) fuel rods, instead of measuring them again.

Five workers were sacked for the deceit. Switzerland and Germany halted fuel shipments to Sellafield and Japan demanded its nuclear waste consignments be brought back to Britain.

And last month, police were called in when sabotage was uncovered at Sellafield. An attacker had deliberately damaged equipment by cutting cables.

The string of safety scares led the government to shelve plans to privatise Sellafield for at least two years.