Despite the prospect of its ‘Black Special’ security status being raised to ‘Amber’ because of the war in Iraq, protection of the Sellafield site was shown to be as lax as ever last weekend. In broad daylight, two members of the public were twice (within 30 minutes) able to place ladders against the perimeter security fence close to the plutonium stores. On the second occasion they erected a banner on top of the fence without attracting the slightest interest from guards within or around the site.
With the banner unfurled to reveal the word ‘BANG !’, the two were able to take photographs, remove the banner and ladders and were well on their way from Sellafield before being stopped by police. Satisfied with the explanation that they had simply been taking general photographs, the police waved them on their way, oblivious to the full extent of what had just been done.
In putting BNFL’s security measures to the test, Martin Wyness and another activist from Kendal had focused their attention on Sellafield’s two plutonium stores which, as their photograph testifies, are just one hundred metres from the perimeter fence and adjacent public road leading to the site’s Main Gate. The plutonium stores, containing around 80 tonnes of plutonium dioxide powder, would be expected to be amongst the list of Sellafield buildings that would feature on terrorist hit lists.
Martin Wyness was later quick to point out that, in the face of such security inactivity, terrorists could easily have broken through the perimeter fence and continued an assault against the plutonium store. Calling for the authorities to immediately build protective earth banks around the plutonium stores to protect against rocket attacks, he said that as a concerned Cumbrian parent he hoped the ‘mad culture of producing and storing such terrible material would be urgently investigated’.
Sellafield was last placed on full Amber alert immediately following the September 11 attacks in America. During the week of Amber status members of CORE were able to approach the perimeter fence and photograph the plutonium stores completely unhindered and unchallenged.
Red Alert is the highest security status at Sellafield and any decision to raise the current security status of Black Special to Amber at Sellafield and other nuclear sites is made by the Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS), an off-shoot of the Government’s Department of Trade and Industry. Increased precautions under an Amber alert have been described by BNFL as involving immediate and significant effects upon the Sellafield workforce in terms of traffic management on the approaches to the site. The company has said it will ban single occupancy vehicles from entering the site if increased vehicle searches result in unmanageable congestion.