Sellafield issued with a formal caution from the Environment Agency

Sellafield Ltd has today (15 February 2011) been issued with a formal caution from the Environment Agency, in relation to a leak of radioactive liquid which was reported in January 2009.

This action has been taken following the conclusion of a detailed investigation into the incident, during which the Environment Agency also issued Sellafield Ltd with an enforcement notice to address the shortcomings that led to the leaks occurring in the first place.

Although the leak caused no impact to the environment or local people, the Environment Agency made sure Sellafield Ltd took action to ensure this does not happen again.
The leak of radioactive liquid, in the form of a steady drip, came from a pipe designed to drain condensation from a ventilation duct. This caused contamination to a small area of ground within the Sellafield site. No contamination from this incident has escaped from the site. Members of the public do not have access to the Sellafield site, and have not been put at risk as a result of this incident.

Stuart Page, Nuclear Regulator from the Environment Agency said: “The Environment Agency expect operators of nuclear facilities to employ the highest standards in controlling their wastes. Our investigation has revealed that Sellafield Ltd fell well short of these standards in this situation. While the environmental impact of the incident was minimal, a formal caution is warranted to reflect the seriousness with which we view such failings.

“Following the enforcement notice that we issued to the company in July 2009, Sellafield Ltd has made a number of improvements to its management arrangements, and we have confirmed by inspection that these improvements have gone a long way to addressing the failings that we identified. More work has still to be completed, and we are keeping the company’s progress in these areas under close and frequent review.”
Sellafield Ltd carries out a variety of activities at this site, including spent nuclear fuel reprocessing and nuclear waste processing and storage. Much of the site is being decommissioned.

The Environment Agency regulates disposals of radioactive waste from the site through a certificate of authorisation, which contains conditions with which the operator must comply. If an operator fails to comply with these conditions, the Environment Agency can take a range of actions, including requiring improvements to be made by issuing an enforcement notice.

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