Editorial: BNFL must plug its nuclear leaks

The admission by BNFL this week that it has detected ’some irregularities in data’ during quality control checks at its mixed oxide (MOX) facility at Sellafield, almost beggars belief. The nuclear installations inspectorate is now looking into claims by made by the Independent that safety checks on fuel rods have been falsified.

The admission by BNFL this week that it has detected ’some

irregularities in data’ during quality control checks at its mixed oxide

(MOX) facility at Sellafield, almost beggars belief. The nuclear

installations inspectorate is now looking into claims by made by the

Independent that safety checks on fuel rods have been falsified.



Here we have a worker (or workers) at one of the most controversial UK

companies, wilfully undermining the reputation of not only his employer,

but potentially the entire industry, by taking a couple of

shortcuts.



This, the latest in a round of crises fielded by BNFL, could hardly have

come at a worse time. The company is currently preparing for a pounds 1

billion privatisation and is awaiting permission to open a controversial

pounds 300 million MOX facility - MOX being hailed as the next

generation hope for the nuclear industry, but dependent on sales to the

Japanese.



In response to the article, BNFL claims that this is a ’local quality as

opposed to safety’ issue. However, pressure groups have already voiced

their scepticism and Greenpeace claims that MITI, the Japanese

government science body, is insisting that the inaugural shipment of MOX

must be rechecked.



There is much work to do to allay local and Japanese fears. As part of

the process, BNFL will inevitably have to be seen to overhaul its

quality control systems in the wake of this latest ’crisis’. However,

behind the scenes, attention also urgently needs to be paid to its

internal communication strategies and infrastructure. That a BNFL

employee, working in one of the world’s most controversial industries,

could have even countenanced shortcutting safety regulations, and been

so blissfully unaware of the reputational risks that his or her action

posed, points to some serious deficiencies in internal

communications.



In this highly sensitive sector, staff must be made to realise the

impact their actions have upon the reputation of the company and the

industry as a whole.



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