Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Sellafield should close

25 October, 2007


Sinn Féin Environment Spokesperson, North Antrim MLA Daithí McKay moving the debate on Sellafield at the Assembly today has said that there is an opportunity to send a clear message to the British Government that all the major political institutions on this island want to see the Sellafield nuclear plant shut down.

Mr McKay said:

"We have brought this motion forward to the Assembly today, not only out of concern for the public health of those living on the East Coast in places like Antrim, Down and Louth, but because we are concerned at the threat Sellafield has had and will continue to have on the well-being of people living throughout Ireland, as well as in Britain and the rest of Northern Europe.

"A motion has already been passed to this effect in the Dail and we have an opportunity to send a clear message to the British Government that all the major political institutions on this island want to see the Sellafield nuclear plant shut down.

"50 years ago there was radioactive fallout from a major accident at the Windscale Nuclear reactor. New research shows that the incident generated TWICE as much radioactive material and caused dozens more cancers than was previously thought.

"The Windscale accident was not a one-off.

"There was a leakage of highly radioactive nuclear fuel just 2 years ago at Sellafield. Approx 20 tonnes of uranium and plutonium, enough to make 20 nuclear weapons, escaped through a cracked pipe. Nordic MPs recently met with the owners of Sellafield and told them that safety procedures at the nuclear plant need to be tightened up.

"Yet, the British authorities have granted permission to resume reprocessing of nuclear waste again at the THORP unit, which was closed several years ago because of a radioactive leak.

"Recently, a devastating official inquiry found that safety alarms have been routinely ignored, operating instructions flouted, and safety equipment left broken at the controversial plant. The inquiry report - one of the most damning ever on a British nuclear installation condemns 'alarm-tolerant culture '; 'long-standing failings; and a 'failure to learn from previous events' at the Cumbrian complex.

"Sellafield remains a significant threat to people on this island especially those living in the North-East and ministers, as well as members, from this Assembly should press the British Government on this issue at every opportunity. Irish people have been living with the consequences of the fire at Sellafield for many years with particularly high rates of cancer and birth defects in County Louth and in South Down.

"Sinn Féin has called on the Irish Government to convene round table talks to include NGOs, Environmentalists, campaigning groups and northern European states - especially Norway - and representatives of this Assembly should also be involved in this process. We have consistently called for the closure of the Sellafield plant. There must be an immediate end to the reprocessing that takes place at the plant.

"It is a discredited plant and it remains the most dangerous and unstable nuclear facility in Western Europe. Sinn Féin will continue to fight for its immediate closure." ENDS

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