Letter: Safety and the nuclear industry

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Sir: Your science editor, Tom Wilkie, devoted an article on 26 February to a discharge at Sellafield which did not breach our authorisation and which was so small as not to be formally reportable to ministers, although we did in fact report it to ministers.

The safety regime at Sellafield and other nuclear installations is very rigorous indeed and rightly so. If other industries were subject to as rigorous a regime as the nuclear industry there would in fact be much less industrial activity in Britain, let alone the industrial revival to which Mr Major and his government are committed. The recent report by the Health and Safety Executive on 'the tolerability of risks from nuclear power stations' brings out very clearly the scale of the risks of death both from everyday risks, for example car accidents, and other major


The BNFL board attaches the highest priority to safety, but it is important to put what happened at Sellafield into context. On the same day as Mr Wilkie wrote his article some senior members of BNFL flew from Manchester to Dublin to brief members of the Dail on the new Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (Thorp). They each received twice the dose of radiation during the flights than the most affected person would have received from the discharge that was the subject of Mr Wilkie's article.

So far as I am aware the airline did not inform the regulatory authorities, nor the Secretary of State for Transport and the Secretary of State for the Environment, nor the local MPs in Britain and Ireland. Nor were they required to report it.

Nor was there any special debate in the House. Neither was the pilot a formal radiation worker, which he would certainly be, given the level of radiation received, had he been employed in the nuclear industry.

Yours faithfully,



British Nuclear Fuels

London, SW1

1 March