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Greenpeace Pro-Bono, Anti-nuclear

The Independent, June 21, 1992
By: Caroline Beck


On the beach at Seascale, Cumbria, near the Sellafield nuclear plant, an old man walked his dog along the sand, seemingly unaware of the rock band U2, who were clad from head to foot in white protective clothing and masks.

The band, with 60 or so protesters from the environmental group Greenpeace, were staging an anti-nuclear protest. Cumbrian police looked on uneasily, knowing that it was being staged carefully outside an area laid down in a High Court injunction banning the demonstration, taken out by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. earlier this week.

After the court case, the protest was called off and people were told not to go. But at 7 a.m. on Saturday, the 60 demonstrators, including the rock stars, came ashore in inflatable boats from the Greenpeace ship Solo and set up a three-kilometre line of placards saying "React - stop Sellafield." It was set on the level of the high water mark, so technically was not on land owned by BNFL, thus beating the terms of the injunction.

Before the injunction 15,000 people had been expected to turn up to protest against Sellafield II or THORP -- a nuclear reprocessing plant due to come on stream later this year. It had started off as a small demonstration but when Greenpeace and U2 became involved, the numbers expected swelled to thousands, prompting BNFL's High Court action.

Local people accused U2 of jumping on the bandwagon. The lead singer, Bono, said: "This is an issue we've been concerned with for years. We're also concerned about BNFL's behaviour over this whole thing."

Other local environmental groups such as CORE (Cumbrians Against a Radioactive Environment) and the Sellafield Women's Peace Camp turned up to watch yesterday, as did irate BNFL workers and some local residents. Police stopped anyone going near the plant, and the beach and golf course next to the plant were sealed off.

An argument broke out between Core members and Sellafield workers. A couple of youths spat at Greenpeace's spokeswoman, Jane Wildblood. "It's difficult for them," she said, "and this morning hasn't been without its tension. But it's their beaches that are contaminated."

A shopkeeper, who did not want to be named, said: "It's impossible for people around here. There's high unemployment and Sellafield does at least take them off the dole queue. But what happens when your kids get leukaemia?"

As the afternoon wore on, the police vans moved away and the car park cleared. The beach, which environmental groups say is contaminated, returned to normal, dotted with children and dogs. A banner proclaiming "Nuclear power - a dead end" flapped in the breeze and a group of local teenagers tried to rip it down. "It's not a dead end. It's our bloody future," one of them shouted.

© Independent, 1992. All rights reserved.

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