Today eleven Greenpeace volunteers received fines for taking action to expose lax security at British Energy's Sizewell B nuclear plant. The fines were handed down by the District Judge sitting at Lowestoft Magistrates Court (1).
Ben Stewart, speaking on behalf of the defendants said, "I accept the verdict of the court, but believe that the action we took was justified because it exposed the incredibly lax security at an obvious terrorist target. Neither my co-defendants nor I would do anything to interfere with the operation of the plant or on site safety, 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 involving explosives could spread radioactive fallout for miles around."
"I urge the Government and nuclear industry to act now to close these dangerous plants. I strongly believe that people don't need to live with this risk. We can get all our electricity from clean safe renewable energy. Terrorists are unlikely to blow up a wind farm and they can't make a dirty bomb from a solar panel."
Today's events relate to action undertaken by Greenpeace volunteers on 13th January 2003. The volunteers walked en masse into the British Energy's Sizewell B plant and easily gained access to the reactor building and reactor dome.
The group gained access to the 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 away from the door to the control building, which nineteen 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.
This was the second time Greenpeace volunteers have been able to enter the nuclear site unopposed. On October 14th 2002, 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.
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 may have been 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.
The UK Government too has warned that terrorists would like to get their hands on nuclear material or carry out a nuclear attack. Yet 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 little or no security to challenge them, has exposed these measures as woefully inadequate.
(1) The activists all pleaded guilty to charges of criminal damage (such as painting 'danger' on the reactor dome). However, in mitigation they pleaded that they performed a public service in exposing the inadequate security around Sizewell B, Britain's largest nuclear power plant.
For more information or a copy of the background briefing contact Greenpeace press office on 020 7865 8255