Safety debacles prompt shakeup at nuclear plant
LONDON: British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. on Tuesday replaced eight directors,
hired a new safety chief and promised to change its ways following a
critical government report and a series of safety problems at its Sellafield
"This has been a wake-up call," said Norman Askew, the new chief executive
of the state-run company. "It is an opportunity to drive real change through
and also to make it stick."
However, uncertainty remained over whether the northwest England plant can
regain the confidence of foreign customers in the longer term and resolve a
current dispute with Japan, which bought a consignment of fuels with
falsified records. Askew was appointed in February after a report by the
Nuclear Installations Inspectorate complained of a "lack of safety culture"
Earlier in February, the plant was shut down when it was discovered that
workers deliberately falsified records about the quality of the consignment
of uranium and plutonium mixed oxide fuel delivered to Japan's Kansai
Electric Power Company. Switzerland and Germany have halted fuel shipments
to Sellafield since the revelation about the falsified consignment - which
Japan wants to send back.
Five employees were fired, and all staff are undergoing retraining. In a
report called Going Forward Safely, British Nuclear Fuels announced the
shakeup of managers and management style, and the appointment of 70 extra
staff to improve safety.
A new director of operations, Brian Watson, will have overall responsibility
for safety at the plant in Cumbria and be monitored by a team of assessors.
"What we have implemented is a completely different way of running the
business. Managers are accountable for what they're doing, managers have the
authority to make decisions and make things happen," company chairman Hugh
Askew, who said it would take up to two years to implement all the
recommended changes, did not rule out taking back the consignment from
Kansai Electric had planned to use the fuel for an experimental nuclear
power program at a reactor in Takahama, in central Japan, starting in
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