Bono's Wife Takes Nuke Plant Protest to Blair's Door

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Irish protesters chose the 16th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster Friday to bombard Prime Minister Tony Blair and Prince Charles with postcards demanding the closure of Britain's Sellafield nuclear plant.

"Sellafield has the potential to be 80 times the size of the Chernobyl accident," leading protester Ali Hewson, wife of Irish rock star Bono, told reporters after personally handing in a postcard at Blair's Downing Street office in London.

In the world's worst civil nuclear disaster, Chernobyl exploded on April 26, 1986, and its radioactive contamination was blamed for thousands of deaths in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, and for a huge increase in thyroid cancer.

The Sellafield reprocessing plant, on England's northwest coast across the Irish Sea, has long caused friction between the two governments due to Irish fears of accidents or pollution.

"Tony, look me in the eye and tell me I'm safe," said Hewson's postcard to Blair under a picture of a staring green eye. It was one of more than 1.2 million such postcards sent by Irish households for delivery to Britain Friday.

Long a focus of protests for environmentalists in Britain and Ireland, the anti-Sellafield lobby said the issue has taken on new urgency since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

"That's the reason that people are rethinking exactly the problems of Sellafield," said Hewson, whose husband Bono, of the U2 rock band, is a leading campaigner against Third World debt. "It has 75 tons of plutonium sitting on its site. It can't but be at the top of any terrorist's list."

Energy Minister Brian Wilson issued a statement decrying the "emotive and misleading arguments" of anti-Sellafield campaigners and citing "facts and evidence produced from reputable scientific sources about the negligible impacts of activities at Sellafield."

"The U.K. government would not pursue any course of action which is damaging either to our own people or to our neighbors in Ireland," he said.

© 2002 Reuters.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on April 26, 2002 9:43 AM.

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