Select Committee on Trade and Industry Written Evidence


Memorandum by Greenpeace

  I saw that you asked British Energy about the safety issue as part of your inquiry into the Energy Review. I thought that you might find the work that we have done on nuclear waste transports useful!

  Every week, trains carrying highly radioactive nuclear waste pass through the UK, sometimes at peak travelling times. These trains, heading from nuclear power stations around the UK to Sellafield, travel on the same lines as passenger trains.

  An recent independent review, by nuclear expert John Large, of Large & Associates, of the risks facing the transportation by train of spent nuclear fuel in the UK, shows that these rail transports are hugely vulnerable to a terrorist attack. If terrorists were able to damage a spent fuel flask and then set fire to it in a tunnel, the subsequent release could spread radiation over 100 kilometres, which in an urban area could lead to over 8,000 deaths. Many tunnels, which could accommodate a fire reaching extreme and prolonged temperature, lie along nuclear train routes.

  The review also shows that security on trains carrying nuclear waste is "minimal", with no apparent special security or police. The only staff on board are regular railway personnel. Yet recently it has been reported that photographs, maps and detailed information about nuclear installations and types of radioactive materials were found in a raid following the London bombings last July.

  At present, local authorities along the nuclear rail routes do not have to prepare any emergency plans or inform the public of what best to do in the event of such an accident or attack. However, the Mayor of London has announced a review into the safety of trains carrying nuclear material, amid terror threat fears.

  Greenpeace has written to Margaret Beckett asking for a formal review the practice of transporting spent nuclear fuel by rail and road on the basis that new information indicates that these transports are vulnerable to terrorist attack. This would involve reviewing all current information and could also involve a public consultation. Greenpeace believes that DEFRA are legally obliged to carry out such a review under Regulation 10 and 12 of the Justification of practices Involving Ionising Radiation Regs 2004 which implements the EURATOM Directive. [92]I have enclosed a copy of our letter.

  A new generation of nuclear power stations, currently being considered by the Government, would result in spent fuel, that is more radioactive than current transports, being transported across the UK for the next 100 years. Greenpeace believes that it is vital that safety issues, such as these, are considered before a new generation of nuclear power stations is considered.

  Greenpeace is calling for an end to the transports through onsite storage and a commitment from Government to support a truly clean and efficient, decentralised energy system that can tackle climate change whilst meeting our energy needs instead of more dangerous, dirty and costly nuclear power stations.

16 May 2006

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