Hello, anybody home?

Greenpeace volunteers get into 'top security' nuclear control centre

Feature story - 13 January, 2003
When a large group of Greenpeace volunteers strolled into a nuclear power station under the early morning cover of darkness, you might expect they would meet some opposition. Shouldn't alarm bells being ringing loudly across the facility, guards running out to greet them, with at least a friendly "hello, what are you doing here?" No, it was an easy task to reach the control building and the reactor dome this morning proving that there is a serious security breach at Britain's flagship nuclear facility. If a large group of activists in bright red suits can get in so easily, so can anyone else.

Nineteen Greenpeace volunteers easily accessed the control building and reactor dome at Britain's flagship nuclear power facility.

Just after six this morning 19 Greenpeace volunteers peacefully gained access to British Energy's Sizewell plant by cutting a hole in the two-wire fences, which are all that separate the nuclear facility from a public beach. The fence is just a few metres from the door to the control building, which the volunteers managed to gain access to by using a ladder to reach a door on the side of the building 10 metres off the ground. Nine of these volunteers then used ladders to climb onto the reactor dome. No alarm was heard when the fences were breached and it took five minutes for three unarmed private security guards to appear on the scene.

Disturbingly, this is the second time Greenpeace volunteers have unopposed been able to break into the nuclear site. Last October 140 volunteers including several in life-size Homer Simpson costumes encountered little security as they breached the perimeter fence and occupied rooftops. It took 25 minutes for security guards to arrive at the scene.

Greenpeace volunteer Rob Gueterbock speaking from the reactor dome said, "Sizewell is easier to get into than a Norwich night-club. It is a terrifying thought that if we can do this then anyone can. We wouldn't do anything to interfere with the plant but if terrorists targeted a nuclear power station it would be deadly. These places contain stores of dangerous radioactive waste, nuclear fuel, as well as the reactor itself. Sabotage could spread radioactive fallout for miles around."

After the September 11th attacks, local MP and former Tory environment minister John Gummer called for European countries to work together against nuclear terrorism. This followed an International Atomic Energy Authority warning that a nuclear attack was far more likely and could come in the form of a dirty bomb, or the targeting of nuclear facilities to cause a Chernobyl style disaster. US intelligence reports have said that the fourth hijacked plane on September 11th was heading for the nuclear plant at Three Mile Island. The US based Nuclear Control Institute has pointed to court testimony that Al Qaeda training camps offered instruction in urban warfare at installations including power plants.

Despite a reported stepping up of security around civil nuclear sites, the fact that large numbers of Greenpeace volunteers have twice been able to enter Sizewell with no security to challenge them, has exposed these measures as woefully inadequate.

We want the government to force the nuclear industry to massively improve security at Britain's nuclear power stations with immediate effect. However since nuclear power stations or the radioactive waste they create can never be made 100 percent secure, the safest thing to do is to plan to close all our reactors down and abandon proposals to build new ones.

"Terrorists are unlikely to blow up a wind farm or make a dirty bomb from a solar panel," added Rob.