May 2011

THE BRITISH authorities have decided to exclude the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in Cumbria from an imminent round of stress tests on European nuclear installations.

The move comes despite indications to Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan from British energy secretary Chris Huhne that the stress tests would include Sellafield.

Voluntary tests on Europe’s 143 nuclear reactors follow the Fukushima nuclear emergency in Japan, which raised questions as to whether previous safety audits were thorough enough.

The tests, which begin next month, will examine the resilience of nuclear installations to earthquakes, tsunamis, air crashes and human error. A group will also be set up to deal with the risk of any terrorist attack on a nuclear plant.

“The answer is no,” said a British government spokeswoman in Brussels when asked whether Sellafield would be examined.

She explained the decision by saying the plant is now engaged in nuclear fuel reprocessing and no longer generates power. “It’s just for existing generation sites,” she said of the tests.

previously the British told the Irish they would include it. See

The future of a nuclear fuel plant at Sellafield in Cumbria hangs in the balance after the Japanese Prime Minister called for the closure of a nuclear power station near Tokyo, which was to be the UK plant’s most important customer.

The setback is the latest blow to Britain’s faltering strategy for dealing with its growing mountain of reprocessed nuclear waste, and further evidence of the extent to which the devastating Japanese earthquake of 11 March has changed the nuclear picture – in particular the international trade in reprocessed nuclear fuel.

If the power plant at Hamaoka, 200km from Tokyo, closes, shipments of nuclear fuel to Japan from the Sellafield Mox Plant would stop before they had even started. It is the latest in a long series of problems for the nuclear fuel plant at the Sellafield complex which had already cost taxpayers £1.34bn even before the impact of the earthquake and tsunami was felt.

LONDON — The police in Britain said that they had arrested five men under anti-terrorism laws near the Sellafield nuclear site in the north of England.

The men were stopped in a vehicle “close to the site? on the Irish Sea coast on Monday afternoon according to a statement from West Cumbria police. All are aged in their 20s, the statement said, and all are from London.

They were arrested under a provision of Britain’s terrorism laws that allows suspects to be questioned without charge, police said, and have now been handed over to the specialist North West Counter Terrorism Unit in Manchester.

A BBC report suggested the men were of Bangladeshi origin and that they were thought to have been filming near the site.

A spokeswoman for the unit, which works closely with Britain’s domestic intelligence service, MI5, declined to confirm the report or provide further details because “the investigation is at an early stage,? and questioning is under way.

But she did say that there is “no link at this stage? to the death of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, an event which prompted Islamic extremists to warn that Britain will be a target for retaliatory attacks. British authorities have told the public to be alert on public transportation and in other venues.