On Monday June 6 the Environment Agency (EA), which regulates the disposal of nuclear waste in the UK, served an enforcement notice on the facility requiring improved management of the radioactive water. British Nuclear Group Sellafield Ltd (BNGSL) has permission to discharge limited amounts of wastewater with low levels of radioactivity into the sea.
In October last year the EA issued a revised authorisation to BNGSL with stronger emphasis on minimising production and discharge of radioactive waste.
The new agreement also requires BNGSL to show its management systems are sufficient to do this.
“In recent years we’ve seen significant improvements in some areas at Sellafield,” said EA nuclear regulator Andy Mayall.
“Radioactive discharges from the site, including the facilities to which this notice relates, are already low – radiation doses to the public are well within legal limits and any risk to the public is very small.
“However, BNGSL’s authorisation also requires it to do all it can to manage and minimise all its waste discharges. Being in compliance with limits does not mean that the company should not be committed to continuous improvement. Our inspection of parts of the site in February 2005 indicated that BNGSL needs to address certain issues if it is to demonstrate this.”
The enforcement order calls for improvements in several areas.
These include arrangements for minimising the build-up of solid material in the lagoon, an area designed to hold surface water run-off from the site before it is discharged into the Irish Sea, inconsistencies in the way some discharges and disposals are measured and reported and failure to report to the Agency, that liquid waste discharged from the on-site lagoon contained a radioactive substance which had not been noted before.
BNGSL will now have to produce a plan for addressing these requirements by the end of August.
Once this has happened, the company will have to carry out the improvement works that the plan outlines within a timescale agreed by the Environment Agency.
This latest development in the ongoing Sellafield saga will spark renewed calls from environmentalists and Britain’s European neighbours to close down the facility (see related story ).

By Sam Bond

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