Monday 23 September 2019

Explosive experts called to Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant

The Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria in the UK. Photo: PA
The Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria in the UK. Photo: PA

Lydia Smith

Explosive experts have been called to Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant after a “chemical incident” at the site.

Staff had been carrying out a chemical inventory audit in a laboratory and disposing of chemicals stored at the Cumbria plant since 1992 when the incident took place.

A 100m cordon was placed around the zone and staff working within that area were asked to keep clear, a spokesperson for Sellafield Ltd told the Independent.

He said “five of six bottles” of non-nuclear chemicals were discovered and protocol calls for experts to be brought in to safely clear the material from the site.

The spokesperson said the incident is likely to be sorted today and added there is “no immediate danger”.

Staff at Sellafield have been advised to return to work today as normal, he said.

In a statement, Sellafield Ltd said: “In line with best practice and established procedures, we alerted the relevant partner agencies and sought advice on managing this material in accordance with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations.

“As is usual in these scenarios, a specialised unit was invited to attend the Sellafield site to assess the material and advise on its safe disposal.

“A operational decision will be taken in due course on how best to dispose of the material.”

Sellafield faced questions over its safety last year after a BBC Panorama investigation found staffing levels were frequently lower than the “minimum safety manning level”.

The site was also found to be storing radioactive plutonium and uranium in plastic bottles, some of which were degrading.

It comes within days of firefighters at the site launching the first of two 12-hour strikes in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Members of the GMB union accused Sellafield management of failing to keep promises made in July to settle the dispute.

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