Safety debacles prompt shakeup at nuclear plant

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Wed Apr 19 18:44:10 PDT 2000

Wednesday 19 April 2000

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 reprocessing plant. "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" at Sellafield. 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 Collum said. 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 Japan. Kansai Electric had planned to use the fuel for an experimental nuclear power program at a reactor in Takahama, in central Japan, starting in January. (AP) For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service
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