Idaho incinerator company's British site criticized for safety
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
IDAHO FALLSThe company building a nuclear waste incinerator at the
Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory is mired in a widening
international scandal for falsifying records on nuclear fuel shipments.
British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. acknowledged last week that workers at its
Sellafield site in England falsified records on a shipment of nuclear fuel to a German
reactor in 1996.
That follows disclosures last year that workers faked data on batches of
fuel headed to Japan. That country, which had been British Nuclear Fuel's biggest customer
for the mixed plutonium-uranium oxide fuel, has banned utilities from accepting any more
fuel shipments from the company.
"It does lead to troubling questions, which we readily admit,'' said
British Nuclear Fuel's spokesman David Campbell in Washington, D.C. "We've been able
to determine that our system worked and all the fuel was safe.''
The company also was hit with two stinging reports last week, following
inspections at Sellafield by the arm of the British government that regulates nuclear
The British Nuclear Installations Inspectorate found a poor safety culture
in many areas of the site, in which workers were reluctant to question decisions and some
incidents that could have jeopardized worker safety were not reported.
In some cases, managers condoned letting plants operate while multiple
alarms were showing, the report said.
It also said that managers were overloaded with cost-cutting and
downsizing initiatives that took time away from making sure plants were operating
Opponents of a proposed nuclear waste incinerator and treatment plant in
Idaho, which would be built by British Nuclear Fuel's American subsidiary, say the
company's track record in England shows it cannot be trusted.
The company was awarded a $1.2 billion contract to build a treatment
plant, which would include a nuclear waste incinerator, at the Idaho National Engineering
and Environmental Laboratory in 1997.
Critics say incineration, which destroys hazardous chemicals in the waste
but releases air emissions in the process, is the wrong technology and British Nuclear
Fuels is the wrong company for the job.