Cumbria narrowly averted a nuclear disaster “five times worse than Chernobyl�, a county councillor has claimed.

Labour’s Wendy Kolbe, who represents Ulverston East, told councillors that a failure in the cooling system at Sellafield on April 1 could have led to a catastrophic explosion.

Her comments have been dismissed as alarmist and untrue.

She said: “For four hours radioactive storage tanks lost cooling water.

“If that had continued for eight hours it would have created a major disaster not only for Cumbria but for Europe.

“We could have been looking at devastation to our county. Something five times worse than Chernobyl.�