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UK’s National Audit Office (NAO) fails to report on Sellafield’s highly dangerous Analytical Services Laboratory (ASL) facility

CORE 4th July 2018 ,As a site, the full appreciation of chemical legislation, including The
Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations DSEAR, has been
inadequate’. [Sellafield Ltd Board of Investigation report on 2017
‘chemical event’ and made available to CORE in April 2018]

Many of the findings of the more recently published (20th June 2018) National Audit
Office (NAO) report will come as little surprise, once again apportioning
blame for a litany of missed milestones, mismanagement of contracts and
delays and overspend on major projects by site owner the Nuclear
Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

The report also criticises the Government’s failure to challenge and assess the NDA’s performance. Of
Sellafield’s 1400 buildings (operational and legacy), some are considered
by NAO to fall short of modern standards and, through deterioration,
‘pose a significant risk to people and the environment’.

Identified as amongst Sellafield’s top 10 highest hazards is the site’s plutonium
stock and associated management facilities, the NAO report warns
specifically of decaying plutonium canisters – a leak from which would
add to the growing list of ’intolerable risks’ posed by Sellafield as
identified by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the acknowledged
risks posed by the volumes of hazardous wastes and materials stored in
run-down buildings.

Yet curiously absent from the references to run down
buildings and intolerable risks – and despite making the national
headlines when the Army’s bomb squad was rushed to Sellafield late one
October weekend last year to deal with unstable chemicals – is the
site’s Analytical Services Laboratory (ASL) facility and the cocktail of
chemicals and radioactive materials it holds.

One of the oldest facilities on site (built in 1951) and located in the tight and highly controlled
confines of Sellafield’s Separation Area alongside old reprocessing plant
and the high hazard legacy ponds and silos, around 50 of ASL’s original
150 laboratories are currently operational. Described by the Office for
Nuclear Regulation (ONR) in June 2017 as a ‘relatively high risk’
facility whose laboratories hold a ‘considerable radiological
inventory’ that ‘has potentially high off-site consequences in the
event of a major accident’, it is little wonder that the Bomb Squad’s
arrival in late October 2017 to deal with ‘unstable chemicals’ and
their potential to ignite or explode; the evacuation of workers and a
100-metre cordon thrown up around ASL should have triggered major alarm
bells locally and further afield.


July 6, 2018 - Posted by | safety, UK

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