Peace campaigners join fight against nuclear site: As a High Court action against the planned Thorp reprocessing plant in Cumbria opens, CND's new leader tells Colin Brown of the organisation's developing strategy

LEADERS of CND will join protesters at the High Court today to oppose the opening of the nuclear Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant in Cumbria.

Janet Bloomfield, the recently- elected chairwoman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, believes the protests will help put CND back on the agenda.

She will be carrying a black suitcase to symbolise the threat of nuclear proliferation that the protesters believe the Thorp plant at Sellafield poses.

The fear of nuclear proliferation, possibly fed by terrorists obtaining plutonium from Thorp, is shared by the Clinton administration, which warned the Government against approving Thorp; the Foreign Office, which entered reservations in meetings of ministers, and at least one Tory MP, Julian Brazier.

Today's hearing was won by Greenpeace and Lancashire County Council in January, when they objected to the Government's approval for Thorp to begin operating. British Nuclear Fuels has been awaiting the outcome before beginning reprocessing of spent fuel from other countries.

The Thorp decision will be a focal point for CND's 1994 campaign for a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, including British ending of nuclear testing, and the extension next year of the global Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.

Mrs Bloomfield believes the Thorp campaign will help to revive the organisation, which is one of her key tasks. CND membership peaked at about 100,000 during the Gulf War, but has since halved. CND, faced with competition from other groups such as Greenpeace, has had to reinvent its reason for being.

Mrs Bloomfield said the campaign still has a relevance, particularly to young people.

She added: 'It feels like a new beginning, a third wave, after the 1960s, and the 1980s campaigns, we have a campaign for the 1990s. CND does still have relevance for this country.

'We still have 27,000 nuclear warheads in the world. We have a lot of countries who are desperate to get nuclear weapons. If we don't get disarmament back on the agenda in the next few years, I think we will be facing the use of nuclear weapons in conflict quite soon.'

She has two teenage children, a boy and a girl, and lives with her husband, a British Rail signalling engineer, in Saffron Walden, Essex. She also operates a management services consultancy for voluntary organisations from home, but is now putting most of her energy into CND meetings around the country.

She was inspired to join CND in 1981 by the deployment of cruise missiles. However, their removal as part of a multilateral deal between East and West has not shaken her faith in unilateralism. The tents of the Greenham women were finally folded last week long after the missiles were withdrawn from Britain. But the women have not faded away.

Some of them have gone to protest outside the US listening post at Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire. Mrs Bloomfield is planning to support them.

(Photograph omitted)