Springfields nuclear plant safety fear allayed

National Nuclear Laboratory at Springfields
National Nuclear Laboratory at Springfields
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Owners of the Springfields nuclear plant near Preston insist the site will still be in safe hands despite a switch to private unarmed security guards.

Gun-toting police are finally being withdrawn after decades of protecting the former British Nuclear Fuels facility at Salwick.

But bosses at Westinghouse, which now runs the plant, are confident security will still be “robust” in the hands of private company the Mitie Group.

“It wouldn’t be appropriate to disclose our security arrangements once our contractor takes over,” said company spokesman Alan Beauchamp. “But we obviously regard safety and security at the site as a priority. We will still have robust security measures in place once the contractor takes over. We have every confidence in Mitie. They are an established security supplier elsewhere and have experience at other nuclear sites.”

The decision to privatise security at Salwick followed a review of policing by the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.

The CNC has had armed officers at the site for decades - it first opened in 1946. But it was decided there was no longer a need for the nuclear police and officers could be replaced by a private security firm.

A CNC spokesman revealed officers have not been routinely armed at the plant since 2007, although weapons have been available. “The site no longer needs our services, so we are withdrawing and officers will be redeployed,” he said.

Springfields will continue to be regulated by the Civil Nuclear Security Programme, an organisation which is repsonsible for approving security arrangements within the civil nuclear industry to prevent theft of radioactive material or sabotage of nuclear facilities.

It was the CNSP which recommended the Civil Nuclear Constabulary was no longer needed at Salwick.

“They carried out a security review at the site and decided it no longer needs to employ the CNC as security contractor,” added Alan Beauchamp.

“We are confident in the new arrangements we are putting in place at the site, which have all been approved by our regulator.”

MP Mark Menzies, whose Fylde constituency includes Salwick, admitted he was satisfied with security at the site after detailed discussions with Westinghouse, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and Government ministers.

“I have had a number of meetings about this over the past couple of years and it is also an issue I have raised with the relevant ministers,” he said.

“The advice I have received from all sides is that everyone is absolutely certain there is no security risk at all. The CNC officers are being redeployed to areas that are regarded as ones that are a security risk, like Sellafield.

“The Springfields plant is a great employer in the area and they only ever do things in a secure way. I am not a security expert, I can only go on the advice I am given.

“But if people from within Government departments and the company itself say the plant does not require heavily armed police then I have to accept that.”