Britain’s nuclear security nightmare – Sellafield

Nuclear power undermines nuclear security, The Ecologist, Dr David Lowry 2nd May 2014 “…… In Britain, the biggest nuclear security problem is the huge nuclear facility at Sellafield, originally built in the early 1950 on England’s northwest coast, in Cumbria, which is also home of the wonderful Lake District National Park.

Sellafield however is also the home of hundreds of decaying and decrepit building, many stores of liquid and solid radioactive waste, and, from a security perspective, most importantly, 111 tonnes of weapons – useable plutonium.

Let me give you that figure in another way. 111 tonnes is 111,000 kilogrammes. A nuclear bomb can be made with as little as 5 kilograms of plutonium – a lump about the size of a large orange.

Note: the ‘Fat Man’ nuclear bomb detonated above Nagasaki in August 1945, with a blast equivalent to 21,000 tons of TNT, contained jut 6.2 kg of plutonium

The Sellafield deer

And how well prepared are Sellafield’s managers for the unexpected? Not very, as we can see from the story of the Sellafield deer.

As a result of a recent security review, the Sellafield management decided to strengthen the perimeter fence around the site. Unfortunately in doing so they unintentionally captured a small herd of wild deer.

But rather than releasing the corralled deer, they shot them, as the local newspaper, the Whitehaven News revealed early on 3rd April. Their headline ran: “Three deer shot dead as Sellafield carries out cull”.

Now – if the deer could find themselves, un-noticed, on the wrong side of the security fence, what about people? The insecurity of the storage buildings for the waste products arising from operating nuclear power reactor is a a huge and as yet unsolved problem.

We are often told these stores are robust against terrorist attack. …….

UK score on nuclear security: 11%

NTI publishes a table in its new report (see below) that ought to set the alarm bells ringing in DECC and across Whitehall. The NTI assessed the nuclear security of 25 countries identified as having the nuclear materials capable of making nuclear nuclear WMDs. The UK ranked bottom with a score of just 11/100.

But the problem is clearly systemic. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council, who also happen to be the ‘Big Five’ nuclear weapons states – the US, Russia, China, UK and France – all ranked 18th or worse out of 25, with scores of 34/100 or worse.

Intriguingly Iran – condemned by the US and other countries as representing a major nuclear proliferation hazard and punished by the Security Council with severe sanctions as a consequence – ranked 4th with a score of 89/100, putting the UNSC permanent members to shame…….


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