Workers welcome an early Christmas present

IF THE DEMONS were being unleashed, there were few signs of concern in Cumbria last night. The party hats were out and the Christmas tree lights burning brightly at Sellafield, writes Malcolm Pithers.

'We're celebrating our Christmas do, not Thorp, but it is a nice co-incidence,' one worker said.

The workers were obviously pleased with the go-ahead for Thorp despite the possibility of a further delay. The harsh reality for most people in West Cumbria is that without Thorp unemployment would rise even faster. West Cumbrians used words like 'disaster' or 'tragedy' and 'catastrophe' yesterday to emphasise their feelings about the effect of Thorp not going ahead.

Inside the plant away from the relaxed atmosphere of the visitor centre, workers said that people's fears about safety were unfounded. They after all were the people responsible for safety for themselves and everyone else. They all fear unemployment.

One man who has spent most of his working life at Sellafield said: 'If they had not given us the go-ahead, our future would be as bleak as anywhere in the country. We do not have anywhere else to work and the amount of money that would have been lost to the local economy is just unthinkable. It would have devastated this area.'

John Kane, 38, married with two daughters, has worked at the plant since 1973 and is now a union official. He said: 'This is something we have been campaigning for for well over a year. It was not, as far as we were concerned, a foregone conclusion despite what people might think. But it is the decision we and the community wanted. They are closing the shipyards and the coal mines but thank God we have work here.'

Environmental groups were less enthusiastic. Janine Allis-Smith one of the campaigners for Core (Cumbrians Opposed to a Radio-Active Environment) said it was a great disappointment for the future of the area.

People had a great deal of anger about the way the nuclear industry dominated the district.

(Photograph omitted)