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Newly revealed photos of Sellafield’s decaying nuclear fuel storage ponds

sellafield-2011Photographs of Sellafield nuclear plant prompt fears over radioactive risk   Nuclear safety expert claims there is ‘significant risk’ due  to poor condition of storage ponds containing highly radioactive fuel rods   and   The Guardian, Thursday 30 October 2014

Previously unseen pictures of two storage ponds containing hundreds of highly radioactive fuel rods at the Sellafield nuclear plant show cracked concrete, seagulls bathing in the water and weeds growing around derelict machinery. But a spokesman for owners Sellafield Ltd said the 60-year-old ponds will not be cleaned up for decades, despite concern that they are in a dangerous state and could cause a large release of radioactive material if they are allowed to deteriorate further.

“The concrete is in dreadful condition, degraded and fractured, and if the ponds drain, the Magnox fuel will ignite and that would lead to a massive release of radioactive material,” nuclear safety expert John Large told the Ecologist magazine. “I am very disturbed at the run-down condition of the structures and support services. In my opinion there is a significant risk that the system could fail.

“It’s like an concrete dock full of water. If you got a breach of the wall by accident or by terrorist attack, the Magnox fuel would burn. I would say there’s many hundreds of tonnes in there. It could give rise to a very big radioactive release. It’s not for me to make comparisons with Chernobyl or Fukushima, but it could certainly cause serious contamination over a wide area and for a very long time.”

Gordon Thompson, executive director of the Institute for Resource and Security Studies in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who is an expert at assessing radiological risk, said: “[Sellafield] contains large inventories of radioactive material that could be released to the environment in a variety of ways. The site’s overall radiological risk has never been properly assessed by the responsible authorities. [The] photos, showing disgracefully degraded open-air ponds at Sellafield, indicate that a thorough assessment of risk is overdue.”

The images, taken over a period seven years and leaked via a local nuclear watchdog group to the Ecologist, are said to show two ponds that were commissioned in 1952 and used until the mid-1970s as short-term storage for spent fuel until it could be reprocessed, producing plutonium for military use. One is open to the elements……..

 

 

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November 1, 2014 - Posted by | safety, UK

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