5 March, 15:59
UK enriched nuclear plant no longer protected by armed response
Five British Police officers guarding some of the country’s most critical national infrastructure – producing enriched uranium – from terrorists have won their unfair dismissal claims despite saying they were too fat, old and unfit to carry guns. This followed a decision by Director for Civil Nuclear Security which concluded there was “no longer a requirement for an armed response capability at the site”.
The tribunal decision comes after the regulator had determined there was “no longer a requirement for an on-site armed response at Capenhurst”.
Britain’s nuclear power stations and operational sites are part of the government’s critical national infrastructure, and are supposed to be given the highest degree of security.
The British secret Service, MI5 says “the current threat level from international terrorism for the UK is assessed as substantial”.
David Cameron’s government brought in a new National Security Strategy in October 2010 which stated that one of the major security risks to the UK was: “a major release of radioactive material from a civil nuclear site within the UK”.
The officers are or were all employed by the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, which is funded by industry and the Department of Energy and guards nuclear installations. It said that it is a requirement for officers to hold a firearms ticket.
An Employment Tribunal has found the Civil Nuclear Constabulary guilty of discrimination against five officers who complained that due to their age and fitness, it was unsafe for them to be deployed as Authorised Firearm Officers (AFOs).
The Capenhurst five
The row erupted after the Director for Civil Nuclear Security concluded there was no longer a requirement for an armed response capability at Capenhurst – where the five worked – and that AFOs would be redeployed, “trying to match organisational needs with individual preferences”.
The CNC told VoR in a statement: “During 2012 the regulator determined there was no longer a requirement for an on-site armed response at Capenhurst. This decision was long expected, we were aware of the impact it would have on our officers and staff and we communicated with them early about the transfer process. Non firearms officers and police staff at this site were made redundant. Firearms officers were redeployed to other sites with a CNC presence.
In our move to an all AFO constabulary in 2010 the force-wide policy stated that we would no longer routinely allow AFOs to move to non AFO status. CNCs intention was always to preserve the employment of these officers and to avoid a redundancy situation.
The Constabulary remains committed to providing equal opportunities and providing support to all our officers to ensure they meet the required standards.
We note the decision of the employment tribunal and are considering our position going forward. We may consider an appeal and therefore unable to comment further at this time.”
The five – known as the Capenhurst five – worked at Capenhurst. The Civil Nuclear Police Federation have confirmed to the Voice of Russia that all five were involved in the security of URENCO UK which operates three plants producing enriched uranium to enable nuclear power stations around the world to generate electricity. The site employs over 300 people.
As a result of the decision no longer to have armed response at the site, the five said they were neither physically nor psychologically able to cope with the demands of firing weapons or wearing body armour and handed in their AQFOs, which the constabulary took as resignation.
But their bosses in the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, an armed force paid for by energy companies, demanded they retract the claims or lose their jobs.
The men – all in their 50s – won their unfair dismissal case at an employment tribunal, which dismissed the CNC’s claims the men had been colluding to win a better redundancy deal.
Charles Shone, 58, said is dodgy knee which would “pop out” and he struggled to keep up with younger and fitter colleagues.
His brother, Harry, 57, said he was a “larger gentleman” who struggled to carry the 34kg (74lb) of kit required by an armed officer. “‘I didn’t have any problems hitting a target but it was the running around with all that armour, for a man of my size, that was difficult,” he told the tribunal.
(A leak in a URENCO plant in Germany exposed an employee to a high level of radiation but posed no danger to people outside the facility, the firm operating the plant said on January 22, 2010. The employee was taken to hospital as a precaution, a spokeswoman for Urenco, a German subsidiary of a British nuclear firm).
Sex discrimination against women
Last month, two female officers working at Sellafield in Cumbria and Chapelcross in Scotland won payouts of £35,000 each after they won a sex discrimination case after the gun they were issued with was too big for her small hands.
Both claimed their reputations were damaged because their unsuitable equipment – a Glock 17 – meant they received lower marks than men in firing range tests.
They also said protective gear was too big for their small heads and legs and they were too short for a wooden barricade used as a resting place for the firearms.