Saturday, July 22, 2006

NukeNet Anti-Nuclear Network (

21 July 2006
By Tom Parry

IT looks like an ordinary freight train. Drab, workmanlike and uninteresting.
But it carries a lethal nuclear cargo that could cause untold deaths if targeted by terrorists. Once a week the diesel-powered locomotive goes unnoticed as it pulls four trailers hundreds of miles around our rail network.

Few are aware the train trundling from the Kent countryside to Cumbria carries radioactive flasks of spent uranium fuel rods.

After the July 7 terror bombings most would think such a vulnerable target would be under the tightest of security.

But a Daily Mirror investigation has revealed a series of astonishing flaws that will inspire horror and disbelief. Incredibly, I was able to place a device that could have been a bomb on the 12-ton cargo as the train sat in sidings at a North West London rail depot.

I approached in daylight after the wagons were left seemingly unattended for almost 10 minutes. The driver, who was taking a break nearby, even left the engine running while myself and a Mirror photographer stood beside the radioactive material.

For two months we had monitored the trains that carry waste from nuclear power stations to the Sellafield reprocessing plant.

We discovered the flasks are frequently open to a potential terror strike while the locomotives wait in a depot.

The vast North West London yard is just a short walk from a sports stadium, a large hospital and one of the capital's major roads. It is surrounded by housing estates. All in all, the perfect weak spot for a terror strike.

Nuclear transport expert Dr John Large has estimated an attack on containers of radioactive waste could kill 8,000 people in an instant.

Thousands more would become victims as a vast poisonous cloud of up to a hundred square miles drifted across Britain.

On Wednesday, the nuclear train pulled in to the depot on time at 7.54pm after leaving

Kent's Dungeness Power Station three hours earlier and travelling slowly through stations at Ashford, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and South London. On arrival the crew of one man and one woman climbed from the cab and walked to a hut 100 yards away.

Two private security guards initially patrolled the train while it stood waiting for a replacement crew for the next leg of the journey north. But they were only visible for 15 minutes before disappearing.

Suddenly there was no one to see us. As we approached the train the four flasks, each containing enriched fuel pins, were clearly indicated by their radioactive warning signs.

We were able to take photographs for several minutes. Anyone with a basic knowledge of driving trains could have hijacked it. By the time we walked past the front of the train the replacement driver was in position, but he did not challenge us. Minutes later he pulled out, heading through Milton Keynes, Rugby, Crewe and Warrington, before arriving at Sellafield.

My only identification as a legitimate rail worker was a fluorescent orange jacket and hard hat, on sale at any builders' merchants.

And this was not a one-off. It was the tenth time I had wandered freely into the depot.

Not once was the main entrance gate shut. The security booth, containing a bank of blank screens for CCTV cameras that never appeared to be functioning, was always empty. Drivers and track maintenance workers who saw us walking between the rails nodded or said hello. I was never asked for a security pass, supposedly obligatory in a fenced-off area. Other trains arrive from Suffolk's Sizewell A power station. Some get there in the middle of the night and wait for long periods in the virtually unlit yard.

A rail insider said: "Security is a joke. All you need to do is find the gate and you can wander at will. If you wear an orange jacket no one will ever ask what you are doing."

Last night nuclear experts and politicians said they were horrified by the Mirror's findings. Dr Large said: "I'm appalled. Every one of these trains would be a potential target for terrorists. If you had an incident in London, I estimate that 190,000 people would have to be evacuated. Those flasks were designed to counter accidents. But they weren't designed to counter the likes of al-Qaeda."

Lib Dem environment spokesman Chris Huhne said: "This is a shocking revelation."

A spokeswoman for Direct Rail Services initially claimed it would not have been possible to get close to the nuclear flasks while the train is stationary at Brent yard.

But after seeing our evidence she said: "The entire journey is protected by very stringent security. However, having seen these pictures we will speak with our security people. A full investigation will be carried out."
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