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Barry Andrews MEP urges swift action on Sellafield nuclear threat

[12/12/2023] — Fianna Fáil MEP for Dublin, Barry Andrews, has taken a strong stance on the potential threat posed by the Sellafield nuclear waste and storage site, located less than 100 miles from the east coast of Ireland. On Monday, 11th December, in Strasbourg, Andrews called on EU Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson, to use her office to engage with UK counterparts and address the alarming findings revealed in a recent Guardian investigation.1

"Sellafield, Europe's most hazardous nuclear site, holds 140 tons of plutonium,2 posing a significant threat to Ireland's safety. Daily, a staggering 2.3 cubic meters of radioactive sludge seeps into the ground,3 prompting concerns over potential far-reaching consequences," Andrews declared.

The investigation by The Guardian newspaper uncovered a myriad of issues, including cyber-attacks, vulnerability to sleeper malware, and a toxic workplace culture. The year-long probe emphasised the potential for "potentially significant consequences" if these problems persist.4

Expressing profound concern, Barry Andrews emphasised, "Ireland is facing a potentially catastrophic environmental crisis right on its doorstep. Given the substantial amount and type of radioactive materials, both the Government of Ireland and the European Union should be deeply alarmed by the reports of the deteriorating infrastructure. A catastrophic failure in infrastructure could have a devastating impact on Ireland and the Irish Sea, placing the people of Ireland directly in danger."

In Strasbourg, Andrews referred to a 2001 European Parliament report, warning of a Sellafield accident potentially surpassing Chernobyl, exposing five million Europeans to radiation.5 The Irish Sea, now deemed the most radioactively contaminated globally by Greenpeace,6 amplifies the gravity of the situation.

Simultaneously, Andrews raised concerns about security issues at Sellafield, where cyber groups linked to Russia and China have hacked into the facility. The Guardian's investigation uncovered a consistent cover-up by senior staff regarding this disclosure and its potential effects. Sleeper malware, detected as early as 2015, poses an ongoing threat, potentially compromising sensitive activities at Sellafield.

Reflecting on the broader implications, Andrews stated, "This goes beyond the immediate threat to Ireland; it's a matter of international security. If the information obtained in these

cyber-attacks were used in an attack on the UK, Ireland could also become an unintended victim. We cannot underestimate the gravity of the situation."

In light of these pressing issues, Andrews called for swift international action. "The urgency cannot be overstated. We need the European Commission for Energy, Kadri Simson, to collaborate with international partners and address this environmental and security threat head-on," Andrews declared

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