Improve accounting for nuclear material, Sellafield told

The European Commission will issue a formal warning to UK nuclear plant Sellafield, giving it four months to improve its system of accounting for nuclear material, following a resolution passed today.

The warning comes after a series of EC inspections found British Nuclear Group Sellafield in breach of EU rules designed to keep a check on all nuclear material, to prevent it from being “diverted from the peaceful uses for which they have been declared.”

“The nuclear operation must be monitored with very high precision. Sellafield was not transmitting all the required information in time, and had not reported on technical changes made to the plant,” a spokesman for the European Commission told edie.

Inspectors found nearly 30kg of plutonium were unaccounted for at the nuclear plant in February 2005, although this incident did not directly motivate yesterday’s warning.

“The decision is limited to issues of the adequacy of the accounting and reporting procedures presently in place at BNG Sellafield. It does not find that nuclear material was actually lost or diverted from its intended purpose and does not concern the issue of nuclear safety,” the Commission said.

The Commission said that accounting and reporting procedures at BNG Sellafield do not meet standards set out in the Euratom treaty, which regulates the safeguarding of nuclear materials as well as radiation protection.

This is the latest in a string of controversies around the Sellafield plant. An accident last year caused 20 tonnes of radioactive nitric acid to leak into a secondary container. The European Commission complained about safety standards at the site in 2004, and said its inspectors had been denied access to some areas, while in 2000 the UK Government’s own inspectors found safety records at the plant had been falsified.

The Irish government, which has been trying to get Sellafield closed down, is worried about nuclear pollution entering the Irish Sea and will be following the case particularly closely.

BNG Sellafield said it has still not received formal notification from the European Commission, and declined further comment.

Sellafield is the world’s largest nuclear facilities in the world, and the site of the world’s first commercial scale nuclear power station, opened in 1956.

by Goska Romanowicz

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie