Towards a Safer Cumbria

Friends of the Earth has published a report which catalogues saftey failures over nuclear waste at Sellafield and £millions wasted. A new FoE Briefing ‘Towards a safer Cumbria’ shows how regulators have lowered safety standards and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has created yet more waste instead of ‘focusing squarely on the nuclear legacy’, its original mission.

Mike Childs, Head of Research & Policy at Friends of the Earth said:

“Sellafield is making a pig’s ear out of clearing up the mess from their costly reprocessing activities. Successive governments have failed to get a grip, with the result that the people of Cumbria continue to face intolerable risks. We need a firm commitment from government that sorting out this mess is a top priority with a firm deadline for making the waste safe”

The Brieifing analyses the performance of the THORP Plutonium Separation Plant, the High-level Waste Treatment Facilities, and the treatment of solid wastes. It says that in 2008 the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate said Liquid high Level Waste Storage tanks needed replacement ‘with the utmost urgency’, but now the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) says these tanks ‘may no longer represent the ‘as low as reasonably practicable’ position with regard to hazard reduction activities on the site’. The report says:

“Failure by the NDA and its private partner bodies has been responded to by the ONR changing its recommendations, rather than using its regulatory powers to ensure action. ONR seems to be sanctioning  cost-cutting exercise rather than insisting on maximum safety.”

The poor performance of reprocessing at Sellafield lies at the heart of the problems, causing build-up of dangerous waste and cost over-runs. The report concludes: “Sellafield and the NDA have been carrying out an expensive and dangerous balancing act in order to complete its reprocessing contracts … Because the nuclear regulator refuses to countenance ordering an end to reprocessing we remain at risk.”

FoE calls on the NDA to halt reprocessing as soon as possible, even if this requires contracts to be broken.

Towards a Safer Cumbria (March2013)

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Published: 8 March 2013
Last updated: 9 March 2013