May 2006

[News & Star] FOUR more Mox fuel assemblies have been shipped from Sellafield to Switzerland.

Fuel from the controversial £470 million plant has been helping to power a nuclear plant there since last year.

British Nuclear Group said four Mox fuel assemblies have been delivered to its customer, NOK in Switzerland. more

RTE Morning Ireland reports: FG accuses Roche over nuclear waste shipment

Dick Roche, Minister for the Environment, reacts to a question in the Dáil about the level of public notification on nuclear waste shipments though the Irish Sea

Fergus O’Dowd, Fine Gael Environment Spokesperson, says the public should be made aware of nuclear waste shipments such as yesterday’s MOX fuel transportation

Real Audio Archive part 1 part 2 part 3

and see real video Irish Seas Nuclear Free Flotilla (ISNFF) Greenpeace have produced a short video to illustrate some of the issues at the heart of the campaign to stop plutonium shipments.

[Guardian] They look like grotesque open-air swimming pools – and they contain some of the UK’s biggest problems regarding nuclear waste.Built 50 years ago at Sellafield, the “ponds” were part of the cooling process on the nuclear bomb development programme and then the Magnox reactors, built in the 1960s, to generate electricity.

After the UK moved to better reactor technology, these ponds – two uncovered, one covered – were half forgotten. Records were mislaid and even birds flying overhead would add their contribution to the 100 metre long, 20 metre deep, 40 metre wide constructions.

But lurking in the water (officially described as “sludge”) are vast quantities of old machinery and equipment from the reactors – such as the Magnox cladding.

Now, however, the ponds – these three and another three closed pools which were built to better standards more recently – are top of the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency’s (NDA) agenda.

The NDA is spending a third of its £1bn budget this year on Sellafield, including work on the ponds and an assessment of how much they have leaked their radioactive contents into the soil around them.

The costs of processing the waste could well be greater than was first imagined – especially since the scale of the problem and how much land is contaminated is not known. For instance, the NDA recently increased its cost projections for cleaning up the UK’s nuclear total legacy by 12% to £63bn.

The NDA’s duties at Sellafield are deemed so important that they were spelled out in the Energy Act 2004 – and must be completed by April 2007. more

“What’s more, we simply don’t know for sure how much nuclear waste there is the UK. A reply to my parliamentary question this week revealed that only very recently, an extra 240m3 of hazardous material was found at Sellafield.

(from )
The Minister for the Environment Dick Roche said the government would use every possible outlet, from diplomacy to international legal action, to prevent another “contamination plant? causing concern for the Irish people.

The minister was responding to a report by Cumbria County Council, which proposed the controversial Sellafield site as a possible location for a new nuclear power station.

(from )

Serious accidents have plagued nuclear fuel reprocessing in Great Britain.
In May 2005, the British Health Protection Agency’s Radiation Protection Division issued a report summing up the risks to the country’s population from ionizing radiation from all sources, including medical X-rays. It concluded that risk from non-medical sources were “at a very low level.”
The report, “Ionizing Radiation Exposure of the UK Population: 2005 Review” discusses exposure from nuclear fuel reprocessing. Reprocessing is carried out at a plant called Sellafield, located at Cumbria on the Irish Sea. Sellafield is operated by British Nuclear Group, part of a holding company called BNFL.
In 1983, according to Sellafield’s Internet site, a “beach incident” occurred in which “highly radioactive discharges resulted in beach closure.”
The radiation exposure report says, “Although there have been decreases in discharges made by Sellafield in recent years, the environmental levels have not reduced substantially. This is mainly due to historical discharges of 137-cs (radioactive cesium). Liquid wastes from Sellafield are discharged directly to the Irish Sea via a pipeline.”
Seafood consumers were believed to ingest some radioactive material, and exposure was also possible from sediments or through handling contaminated fishing gear.
Still, the report concludes, the exposure was “in general . . . low.”
Discussing fallout from past nuclear tests, discharges of radioactive waste and consumer products, the report says, “Exposures to members of the public from these sources remain at a very low level.”
Six years ago, the British government temporarily shut down a reprocessing plant because officials feared workers had “deliberately falsified records relating to the quality of fuel pellets,” says a Deseret Morning News article from that time.
Later, in April 2005, the thermal oxide reprocessing plant at Sellafield was shut down when a remote-controlled camera showed that a pipe had leaked badly. It turned out that the leak had begun months before, “possibly as early as June 2004,” says a report authorized by British Nuclear Group Sellafield Ltd.
Britain’s Nuclear Decommissioning Agency released a report in March 2006 pointing to metal fatigue as the cause of the failure. A large quantity, about 83 cubic meters, of “highly radioactive and corrosive” liquid ran into a secondary containment pool. There it remained, and apparently nobody was exposed to the toxic witch’s brew.
Still, the incident raised concern. The government placed 49 requirements on British Nuclear Group Sellafield Ltd. before it could restart the plant.

(from Utah News )

[guardian] Criminal charges are to be brought against the Sellafield Nuclear power plant over a radioactive leak which went undiscovered for months, the Health and Safety Executive has said.

The facility’s owner, British Nuclear Group Sellafield Ltd, is charged with breaching conditions regarding the safe storage of radioactive materials.

The decision follows the discovery of 18,257 gallons (83 cubic metres) of radioactive liquor inside a protected area of the Thorp reprocessing plant in April last year.

Two managers were suspended after the leak of acid containing uranium and plutonium leaked from a pipe inside the shielded area of the processing plant.

The liquor leaked into a stainless steel-lined cell with 1.5m thick concrete walls and was discovered on April 19, 2005. HSE officials said there is no current evidence of any harm to workers or the public.

The facility remains closed and both managers have now been reinstated following an internal inquiry. It is thought the fluid may have been leaking for several months before it was uncovered, said a Sellafield spokeswoman. more

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