The environmental criminal:
Norman Askew, Chief Executive of BNFL, is wanted for crimes against the planet.
Norman Askew, Chief Executive of British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) is
wanted for questioning over ongoing, massive radioactive discharges
into the global environment, a litany of safety breaches at BNFL's
Sellafield plutonium facility, global transports of weapons-usable
plutonium and failure to deal with a huge stockpile of radioactive
waste. The only problem is that the local authorities are all
answerable to the UK government - the owners of BNFL.
Norman gets rewarded well for the burden of running one of the
world's biggest polluters - he just received an 18 percent pay
raise 'as he had met targets for improving the operating
performance of the company' - try telling that to the people who
live around Sellafield and along the Irish Sea coast.
The accomplice: BNFL's
partner in environmental crime is the UK government, represented by
Energy Minister, Brian Wilson. In a recent piece of creative
accountancy, worthy of the likes of Enron or WorldCom, the UK
government recently decided to move £40.5 billion of BNFL's
liabilities to the wonderfully named 'Liabilities Management
Authority'. This is what it will cost to decommission and clean up
the nuclear waste built up from BNFL's past activities - and the
company only has £4bn in the bank to pay for it. Guess who gets to
pay for BNFL's nuclear clean-up...the UK taxpayer of course. The
same taxpayers will also face future harm from the UK's radioactive
The environmental crime:
BNFL is armed with one of the deadliest substances on Earth,
plutonium, which they use to fuel a dirty and dangerous nuclear
It all began in 1951 when huge quantities of radioactive waste
were deliberately pumped untreated into the Irish Sea to test the
effects it had on the marine ecosystem. The discharges have been
reduced but continue to this day. In spite of an international
agreement calling for a phase-out of the discharges and the
introduction of land-based dry storage of radioactive wastes, the
UK intends to keep discharging radioactivity into the Irish Sea for
at least another generation (2024 and beyond).
BNFL is also wanted for gross negligence and incompetence for
falsifying data relating to the manufacture of plutonium MOX
material exported to Japan; failure to meet the schedule to deal
with high level nuclear wastes building up at their Sellafield
plant; and numerous safety violations at Sellafield.
BNFL is involved in scandalous political donations. They are
accused of 'greasing the palms' of US political parties to ease
their business dealings in the US amidst opposition. BNFL have held
the UK people ransom by demanding more and more funding in a vain
attempt to manage their ageing nuclear installations and activities
in a safer way.
BNFL is also endangering citizens beyond the UK with the
transport of weapons-useable plutonium around the world and back
through sovereign waters against countries' wishes.
Their shareholders, the UK government, are also wanted for the
most heinous environmental crime of not only supporting the
continuation of BNFL's nuclear pollution, but for approving the
expansion of nuclear terror. The UK government has given BNFL
permission to expand operations at Sellafield and is currently
considering licensing another 10 nuclear power stations in the UK,
some of which may be built by BNFL.
'this type of company is not qualified to conduct business in
the nuclear field.'
-Japanese Electric Utility Industry
The victims: Although
BNFL is putting people around the world at risk with their deadly
plutonium shipments, the real victims are back at home, so close to
the problem it is stealing their lives.
"At the time of the 1957 fire, Barbara Roberts was ten years
old. Her parents' house was on the southern end of Walney Island.
Like most children she had drunk milk at school and at home before
the ban on the milk came through....
"The Walney channel is the most contaminated area of the Furness
Peninsula, with levels of plutonium 1800 times fallout having been
recorded there. Not that the Roberts knew this. Like most Barrow
families the Roberts loved the beaches. They were a great place to
take the family for a day out.
"Barbara... used to collect winkles and cockles and continued to
eat shellfish directly from the sea right the way through her five
pregnancies, although only three of the children she conceived made
it into the world. In 1977 she was diagnosed as having a breast
cancer... In 1981 she was found to have secondary cancers in the
brain. She was told the condition was incurable and died on 19
"'She would lie in bed and ask me to push my hands to the side
of her head to ease the pain,' her mother recalls. 'Sometimes I
could hardly bear it... I've seen too much suffering in my life.
This nuclear business... they don't know where it begins or where
it ends. I remember now how daft I was in 1957. We heard the news
to throw the milk away and I did that.'
"'I was just about to send Barbara to the shop for some more
when I realised what I was doing. How did she come to die? Was it
the accident, or playing on the beach, or eating the winkles?'
Barbara's father vividly recalls that on cold mornings he would
stop and talk to his daughter as she leant against the spent
nuclear fuel falks for warmth as they were being unloaded in the
"Ian Renwick... died of acute lymphatic leukemia in 1971 at the
age of three. He was first diagnosed at the age of 20 months. Ian's
family live in Moor Row, a small village six miles north of
Sellafield. The family regularly ate local winkles and mussels that
they gathered from the seashore as well as eating locally caught
fish two or three times a week. The family holidays would be spent
on the Cumbrian coast.
"Dorothy Reay died in 1962 aged 10 months of a lymphatic
leukemia. Her family lives in Whitehaven, very close to the coast.
She died within four days of the first blood tests being taken. Her
father was a Sellafield worker who died of cancer in 1977.
"In a village the size of Seascale the expected rate for
lymphomas for all ages would be one every fifteen years. [From 1980
to 1990] there were seven cases reported, giving a rate of nearly
twelve times the national average."
Excerpts from "Living in the Shadow - the Story of the People of
Sellafield" by Jean McSorley, Pan Books 1990.
The verdict: Very guilty
indeed. BNFL have mislead both to the public and to their
customers. They have led the public to believe that nuclear power
is safe and clean when it clearly is not. BNFL has left a
radioactive legacy that we are stuck with for millennia to come.
There is no solution other than to ensure that it is stored in
secure, above ground, well-documented facilities - so that our
relatives 30,000 years down the line know what it is!
But BNFL must be held accountable for the dangerous shipments of
rejected plutonium which, if new contracts are signed with their
Japanese customers, will lead to another 100 such dangerous
shipments over the next ten years. The UK government is responsible
for stopping such madness and putting an end to the expansion of
nuclear power. The government must fund more large-scale renewable
energy projects like the giant offshore wind farm off the coast of
You can help make BNFL accountable for their environmental
crimes by joining the virtual flotilla against BNFL's current
shipment of plutonium.
A clean and safe environment and a clear conscience that we are
leaving future generations a legacy of clean, renewable energy
rather than dangerous energy, radioactive waste and a secure