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Elevated radioactivity at UK's Sellafield nuclear plant

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-01-31

Unusually high levels of radiation have been detected at Britain’s Sellafield nuclear facility but they do not require action, the site’s management said on Friday.

It was too early to tell if the raised radiation levels were the result of a leak, authorities said.

"As a result of a conservative and prudent decision, the Sellafield site is operating normally but with reduced manning levels today," said a statement by the nuclear reprocessing site, located on the coast of the Irish sea in northwest England.

A radiation monitor at the north end of the site had detected levels of radioactivity above those which occur naturally but well below the level that would require any actions to be taken by the facility’s workforce, said the statement.

Nevertheless, “essential workers only are being asked to report for work”.

“The site is at normal status and employees and operational plants are continuing to operate as investigations continue. All our facilities have positively confirmed there are no abnormal conditions and are operating normally,” it said.

Sellafield, built in 1956, only processes spent fuel and no longer produces power from nuclear energy.

It is undergoing a decommissioning and dismantling programme, run by a consortium made up of British company Amec, French group Areva and US company URS.

Source of radiation unclear

The UK energy ministry said it was in constant contact with the site and had no reason to believe the incident was more serious than Sellafield had indicated.

Britain's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) said it was too early to know if a leak was the cause of higher levels of radioactivity.

"It is far too early to say there is a leak," said spokesman Bill Hamilton. "Everything being done is precautionary. There is no danger to the workforce, communities or wildlife. At the moment we don't know where the radiation is coming from."

Sellafield, which employs more than 10,000 people, was the site of Britain's worst nuclear accident when a fire broke out in one of its reactors in 1957.

It also contains what its deputy managing director George Beveridge described in 2009 as "the most hazardous industrial building in western Europe", housing a 150-metre-long (490 feet) pond used to store spent nuclear fuel.

In another incident, in April 2005, leaked radioactive waste was discovered from Sellafield's THORP reprocessing plant. It was categorised as a level 3 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale, and resulted in fines.








Date created : 2014-01-31


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