Nuclear sell-off 'threat to safety'

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Ministers were last night embroiled in fresh political controversy over the privatisation of the nuclear power industry after one of the industry's top safety experts warned MPs that "a significant reduction in safety is inevitable" if it goes ahead.

Captain Richard Killick, until last month director of safety at Scottish Nuclear, is preparing to present a detailed dossier attacking the privatisation plans to the Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee. Captain Killick, formerly one of the Royal Navy's senior nuclear personnel, said last night: "Privatisation will significantly reduce safety and in the longer term could have extremely severe implications."

Captain Killick, who is understood to have complained that future restructuring of the industry is already stifling dissent among some of its senior personnel, claimed that there would be "increased pressure to put profits before safety" after privatisation." While Captain Killick is saving some of his most detailed observations on safety for the Select Committee he said: "All options are less safe than government ownership."

Brian Wilson, Labour's industry spokesman, called last night for privatisation to be abandoned and said that Captain Killick had "no political axe to grind." He added that he was "simply someone who has seen the whole show developing from the inside and is thoroughly alarmed about what is going on. The whole country should join him in that."

Scottish Nuclear said it stood by its safety record: "The history of Scottish nuclear power over the last 30 years demonstrates that we are committed to safety. The safetyof all nuclear power stations ... is regulated by the independent Nuclear Installations Inspectorate