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MEPs warn of terror risk to Sellafield
By Stephen Castle, in Brussels
19 April 2002
European MPs warned yesterday of the danger of a terrorist attack
on the nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield.
The warning came during a European Parliament committee session
in which the plant in Cumbria was described as one of the world's
worst polluters. During a sometimes stormy meeting, a Labour MEP was
accused of making a racist remark to an Irish colleague as exchanges
became heated over Sellafield's safety record.
Discharges from Sellafield have long been of concern in Ireland
and campaigners have deluged Downing Street with postcards calling
on Tony Blair to shut Sellafield.
Yesterday the argument was extended to encompass the added
dangers posed by terrorism. Several Irish and British MEPs united in
voicing fears that, after the 11 September attacks, Sellafield and a
similar plant at Cap de la Hague in France might be terrorist
targets. Avril Doyle, a Fine Gael MEP argued: "Before 11 September I
would have laughed at the suggestion, but the game has changed
completely since then completely and tragically for all of us. We
need experts to try to quantify the increased risk of a major
credible terrorist attack on Sellafield and Cap La Hague since
Nuala Ahern, an Irish Green MEP, also warned of a "serious risk
of a terrorist attack".
Roy Perry, a Conservative MEP, said he had written to Mr Blair
asking what measures had been put in place since 11 September, but
had received no reply. "There seem to be two ways of dealing with
this. The French government has gone for openness, keeping people
informed about security measures, but the British Government prefers
total secrecy on such matters. They cannot both be right. We need to
know what is being done," he said.
The hearing was plunged into controversy when a British Labour
MEP, Gordon Adam, was accused of making a racist comment to Ms
She claimed that during the exchanges over the safety record of
Sellafield Mr Adam said that, because she is Irish, she did not
understand English. Ms Ahern described Mr Adam's comments as
"unacceptable and racist and extraordinary for the European
Parliament where we do not insult people because of their national
Mr Adam was not available for comment, but a spokeswoman for the
Labour Party in the European Parliament said the comment was
inappropriate. Her understanding was that the matter was closed.
The committee discussed a report by the Paris-based World
Information Service on Energy on the possible toxic effects from the
Sellafield and Cap de la Hague plants, both of which discharge
radioactive material into the environment.
The report says discharges from the plants are some of the
largest man-made radioactive releases in the world. It argues that
"discharges result in high radioactive concentrations in foodstuffs"
and says that "it cannot be ruled out that these very large
releases" could contribute to leukaemia clusters around Sellafield.