RAF flypast 'went close to N-plant'

AN MP has demanded an improvement in Government communication after RAF planes flew close to the Sizewell nuclear reactors without any warning.John Gummer, MP for Suffolk Coastal, has called for an assurance from the Government that managers at the site - on the alert for terrorist attacks - will be kept informed of any future "flypasts" by the RAF.

By David Green

AN MP has demanded an improvement in Government communication after RAF planes flew close to the Sizewell nuclear reactors without any warning.

John Gummer, MP for Suffolk Coastal, has called for an assurance from the Government that managers at the site - on the alert for terrorist attacks - will be kept informed of any future "flypasts" by the RAF.

His intervention follows the Queen's Birthday flypast in June by jets which gathered in the sky above Southwold and headed down the coast towards London.

Some observers claim they infringed the no-fly zone around the nuclear site - tightened after the airborne terrorist attack on New York.

A joint protest on behalf of the Sizewell A and B stations was lodged with the Ministry of Defence shortly after the incident, it was disclosed yesterday.

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In a written Parliamentary answer to a question tabled by Mr Gummer the Ministry of Defence has denied any breach occurred and said the aircraft were at a height of between 2,300ft and 3,000 ft.

The no-fly zone extends to 2,000 ft over a radius of two miles.

Mr Gummer said any infringement of the restricted zone remained in dispute but he wanted to ensure that the Sizewell management was informed in advance of any future RAF activity in the vicinity of the site, thought to be one of the most likely "soft" targets for terrorism.

"Terrorism is a real threat and communication is of paramount importance. The management of Sizewell and my constituents have to be satisfied that procedures are working.

"In this instance they manifestly did not work. This was a failure of communication which has to be put right for the future," he said.

Mr Gummer said the concern had been reported to him by his representative on the Sizewell community liaison committee and he had taken up the issue with the Ministry of Defence.

He had also met with Yoxford Parish Council which was anxious to clarify the chain of information in the event of a serious incident at Sizewell.

"They understandably want to know where the information will come from. At the moment the chain seems to be unclear," he added.

In a Commons written reply, Ivor Caplin, a junior minister at the Ministry of Defence, says: "The aircraft flew between 2,300 and 3,000 feet above mean sea level.

"It is not possible to determine the precise distance that aircraft flew from Sizewell nuclear power station but I am able to confirm that no aircraft breached the restricted area around the power station which is a zone extending to a height of 2,000 ft by a radius of two nautical miles."

John McNamara, Sizewell B spokesman, said: "We would liked to have been informed prior to the flypast."

Charles Barnett, chairman of the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign, said there had already been at least one infringement of the Sizewell restricted zone since the terrorist attack on New York.

"There is basically no defence against a terrorist chartering a plane and heading for Sizewell. Anyone can fly over it with impunity," he said.

Mr Barnett said anti-aircraft guns had to be deployed in the vicinity of the nuclear site.

"But the only real safe solution is to close the power station down immediately," he added.

Noel Cattermole, a Sizewell resident and local fisherman, said: "I was unaware that the planes had gone by and I haven't heard anyone else talk about it."

The Ministry of Defence said it would be imprudent to discuss the arrangements for responding to a terrorist attack on Sizewell or any other civil target in the UK.

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