Fury at N-waste trains in suburb

THE Government has ordered a review of the safety of transporting spent nuclear fuel by rail in the light of plans by British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) to store atomic material in a densely populated area.

The Independent on Sunday has learnt that the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions has instructed the Health and Safety Executive and other agencies to check on radioactive fuel flasks.

The move was prompted by a backbench Labour MP who wrote to John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, over plans by BNFL to store trains carrying spent fuel in a London suburb for 15 hours each week.

BNFL wants to use sidings at Cricklewood, north London, to marshal trains bringing fuel from three power stations - Sizewell in Suffolk, Brandwell in Essex and Dungeness in Kent - on their way to its reprocessing plant at Sellafield.

The plan has sparked local outrage as residents fear a train could be derailed because of vandalism on the line. Some parents want to withdraw their children from local schools. Environmental pressure groups believe the flasks "sweat" radioactive material that could be fatal if released into the atmosphere.

John Reid, the Transport minister, told the IoS: "I am aware of public concern on this issue and, as part of our ongoing programme of independent checks on the effects of the transportation of radioactive material on health and the environment, we will be sponsoring independent checking of contamination levels on radioactive packages, concentrating on irradiated fuel flasks."

BNFL used nearby secure marshalling yards until it switched the contract for moving all its spent fuel, from English, Welsh and Scottish Railways to Direct Rail Services, a BNFL subsidiary.

Rudi Vis, MP for Finchley and Golders Green, said the decision to use its own rail company and move the marshalling to Cricklewood was motivated by money. He said: "I find it totally unacceptable that thousands of people have to live in fear in order for an arrogant company to make a few extra pounds. I want to get this out of London."

The company has been taken aback by the strength of local anger. It admits its handling of the issue has been a public-relations disaster - the plans emerged after BNFL informed the wrong council and MP of its intentions. A spokeswoman for Barnet council, which opposes the plan, said: "This has led us to question BNFL's knowledge of the area and further raises issues of security and safety."

BNFL last week told residents it had delayed plans to start using Cricklewood immediately in order to have "dialogue" with local groups. But it insists that dialogue does not mean negotiation, as it intends to press ahead eventually, however strong the opposition.

Linda Hayes, head of a local residents' group co-ordinating the opposition, said: "BNFL wants to bring three trains and place them at the bottom of our gardens for 15 hours. All the residents are up in arms. This is borough- wide and we have had so much support it is becoming London-wide."

A BNFL spokesman said: "It is painfully clear that we have misjudged the mood of local people. We would be very arrogant to say anything else. What we want to do is to continue dialogue with local representatives to give us an opportunity to put our side of the story."

He said the flasks, made from forged steel more than 30cm thick and typically weighing more than 50 tonnes, were safe. "The heavy shielding of the flasks absorbs radiation and means there is absolutely no danger to train crew, depot staff or local residents. Cricklewood is a very densely populated area but, without wishing to sound dismissive, in terms of safety it does not matter where we transport it through."

He said BNFL puts the flasks through a series of tests, including dropping them from a height of 9m onto reinforced concrete. In 1984 a flask was put across a rail line at a British Rail testing station and a 100mph train driven at it. "The train was a write-off but the flask was fine. There was only superficial damage. The flask is capable of surviving a lot more than a derailment."

n In last week's story, "Nimbys ambush fast rail project", we referred to Helen Bryan as a "former" barrister. We are happy to point out that Ms Bryan is still a barrister.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Gabriel Agbonlahor, Alexis Sanchez, Alan Pardew and Graziano Pelle
footballAfter QPR draw, follow Villa vs Arsenal, Newcastle vs Hull and Swansea vs Southampton
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... with this review
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
New Articles
Arts and Entertainment
musicHow female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam