26/09/2002

Nesbitt cautions against 'scaremongering' over Sellafield

Dermot Nesbitt has told a major conference in Dublin today that debate concerning Sellafield must be based on fact, not emotion.

Mr Nesbitt said that, as a parent with a young family living in County Down, he shared concerns about Sellafield, but cautioned against "scaremongering".

Addressing the conference, Mr Nesbitt said: “We must base our comments on the scientific facts. Too often, emotion displaces factual evidence. I visited British Nuclear Fuels Limited at Sellafield in June to see things for myself.

"My impressions of Sellafield were of a site well run and well managed by thoroughly professional and dedicated staff. It also gave me direct insight into the approach taken to safety and security at the plant.

“Nevertheless, my department will continue to monitor and assess the impact of discharges from Sellafield on the Northern Ireland coastline and to provide public reassurance.

Mr Nesbitt ended by saying that he would support any feasible proposals for further reducing discharges from Sellafield and the risks associated with the transportation of nuclear material.

The role of Sellafield and the use of MOX fuel in the energy industry hit the headlines earlier this month, when a flotilla of protesters – led by Greenpeace, and attracting the support of celebrities such as Jim Corr – surrounded two freighters returning to Barrow-in-Furness from Japan with MOX fuel rods. The protesters argued that the environmental and health risks associated with nuclear energy far outweigh its benefits as an energy source. They point to the development of renewable energy, which Britain signed up to at Kyoto, as a safer and more efficient alternative.

Sinn Fein, who also attended the conference, criticised Mr Nesbitt for putting the "interests of Britain above the interests of Ireland and safety of Irish people".

The party's environment spokesman, Francie Molloy, added: "Sellafield has an atrocious history of leaks, accidents and cover-ups. There must be no let up in the campaign of Irish people, at all levels of society, against this catastrophic nuclear time-bomb on our doorstep."

The conference was organised by the Royal Irish Academy at Academy House, Dublin, and hosted jointly by the Irish government and the Northern Ireland executive.

(MB)

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