Sellafield admits sending radioactive waste to landfill

11th February 2013

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The operator of the UK's largest nuclear facility has pleaded guilty to seven safety and environment offences, after four bags of low-level radioactive waste were illegally sent to landfill

Sellafield Limited admitted at Workington magistrate’s court that it did not have adequate management systems in place to meet the requirements of its environmental permit, when waste from controlled areas of its site was mistakenly sent to landfill in April 2010.

The prosecution followed a joint investigation by the Environment Agency and the Office for Nuclear Regulation, which revealed that four bags containing low-level readioactive waste including plastic, paper, clothing, wood and metal from operations at the Cumbria site, had been sent to the Lillyhall landfill site in Workington. The waste was later retrieved and the agency confirmed that there was no contamination left at the landfill site.

The company told the court that the waste was incorrectly labelled “general” waste, meaning it was not sent for specialist treatment and disposal as it should have been.

Following the hearing, Ian Parker, nuclear regulation manager for the agency, said that the regulators had already required Sellafield Limited to take action to ensure such an incident does not happen again.

“This work of decommissioning and clean-up of the site is a national priority and we will continue to work with Sellafield Limited, fellow regulators and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to ensure that, in meeting this challenge, the company maintains high standards of environmental performance,” he said.

Sellafield Limited pleaded guilty to breaching the conditions of its environmental permits, as well as offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Radioactive Substances Act 1993.

The firm admitted to not having the necessary systems, structure and resources in place and to failing to check the effectiveness of systems, equipment and procedures for the disposal of radioactive waste frequently enough.

Sentencing will take place a Carlisle Crown Court on 8 March 2013.


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