Sunday, 23 August 2020
Danger threat of Sellafield going bang!
I offered this article to Channel Four News, The Sun, The Guardian and Observer, the "i", The Morning Star and The Ecologist, none of which responded; and to the defence and securituy editor at The Daily Mirror, who, after showing initial interest, failed to respond to emails. I have worked with the media on nuclear issues for over 40 years, and have never come across such resistance to a story as this. Has the Government issued a "D Notice" ( or its modern day equivalent) to censor the problem? >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Is the biggest nuclear site in Europe containing the world’s biggest stockpile of nuclear explosives at risk of blowing up? 23 August 2020 On 13 August, Sellafield’s chief propagandist, Jamie Reed - formerly MP for the Copeland parliamentary seat that contains Sellafield (and before that a press officer for the then nuclear waste disposal company, NIREX, now defunct) - issued a Panglossian press briefing that he entitled “Cleaning up our nuclear past: faster, safer and sooner” (https://nda.blog.gov.uk/2020/) One section was headlined “Beyond Sellafield: Investing in the next generation” – and started with the very positive assertion: “In recent weeks we’ve announced and revisited projects that will have an almost immediate impact in our communities…” adding “ We know that in the future we’re going to need higher-level skills to progress our clean-up mission at Sellafield.” He could say that again! The very next day, Sellafield Ltd issued another press release, under the anodyne headline “Chemical disposal at Sellafield” It opened, revealing that “chemicals have been identified as requiring specialist disposal on the Sellafield site,” and added “During a routine inspection of chemical substances stored on the Sellafield site, a small amount of chemicals (organic peroxide) were identified as requiring specialist disposal. This chemical is used for a variety of purposes across many industries. In line with established procedures, support has been requested from Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD). The EOD team is now in attendance at the Sellafield site and will dispose of the chemical safely. Chemical monitoring is undertaken across the site to understand changing chemical states and to inform when and how industrial chemicals should be stored or disposed of. This chemical substance was stored in the site’s Magnox Reprocessing Plant. The storage area is safely segregated from the nuclear operations of the plant and the risk has been identified as a conventional safety issue rather than a nuclear safety risk. As a precautionary measure, a controlled evacuation of the Magnox Reprocessing Plant was carried out yesterday in order to investigate the chemical and devise the appropriate course of action. The plant was non-operational at the time. The plant will remain non-operational while the chemical is disposed of. As ever, our priority remains the protection of our workforce, community and the environment.” It sounded transparent and seemed un-alarming. But this was not the first time Sellafield had failed to control safely dangerously chemicals with potential to cause an explosion Local Sellafield monitoring group, CORE (Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment) were so alarmed they circulated a comprehensive press release first issued on 4 July 2018, under the appropriate headline: “Chemical Chaos and Confusion at Sellafield – yet another intolerable risk?” CORE properly noted one of several alarming conclusions of the internal Sellafield Ltd Board of Inquiry into this incident read: ‘As a site, the full appreciation of chemical legislation, including The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations DSEAR, has been inadequate’ CORE recorded that of Sellafield’s 1400 buildings (operational and legacy), some are considered by the independent financial watchdog, the National Audit Office (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. The owner of Sellafield – Europe’s largest nuclear site- on behalf of the taxpayer is the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). In a 164-page draft strategy document released on 17 August, the NDA revealed this alarming situation on its plutonium stored on site. (Sellafield has 140,000 kilogrammes of explosive plutonium in store: for context of the hazard, the atomic bomb that obliterated the centre of the Japanese city of Nagasaki on 9 August 75 years ago, killing 70,00 people instantly, contained just 6.4 kilogrames of plutonium!) In the report’s section on plutonium storage – at page 60 - it admits alarmingly: “The NDA considers some of the older plutonium packages and facilities used in early production to be amongst the highest hazards on the Sellafield site. A major programme of asset care has and continues to be undertaken at these facilities to support safe operation until they can be taken out of service and decommissioned. Some older packages are to be repacked in existing plants to ensure their safe management in the short to medium term.” (https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/909267/Draft_S4_130820_V2.pdf) Rickety labs are waiting for accidents to happen Sellafield’s Analytical Services Laboratory (ASL) is one of the oldest facilities on site (built in 1951) and located in the tight and highly controlled confines of Sellafield’s so called ‘Separation Area’ alongside old reprocessing plant ( where nuclear explosives plutonium and uranium are recovered from nuclear waste) and the high hazard legacy radioactive waste ponds and silos. Around 50 of ASL’s original 150 laboratories are currently operational They were . 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.” So, when the ‘Bomb Squad’ arrived in late October 2017 to deal with these unstable chemicals with their potential to ignite or explode, they demanded the immediate evacuation of workers and a 100-metre cordon thrown up around ASL should have triggered major alarm bells locally and further afield. Sellafield’s website quietly published an update of this first alarming incident, and concluded on 1 November 2017 that “our chemical disposal work has concluded and the Analytical Laboratory is preparing to restart’” suggesting that all was well with ASL. But this was fake news, as was later made clear by the findings of Sellafield’s subsequent Board of Inquiry report, finally published on 1st February two years ago . Sellafield censored the full contents- in a ‘blacked out’ procedure called redaction. They have never released the full unaltered report. The Sellafield safety campaigners CORE – led by giant former policeman, Martin Forwood, who died nearly a year ag o- finally obtained a fuller version of the report after demanding its release from Sellafield in the public interest. [Martin Forwood https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/16/martin-forwood-obituary] It alarmingly highlighted the current day and past chaos and confusion that has underpinned Sellafield’s management of the hazardous chemical inventory contained within ASL in which radioactive materials are also stored. The Board of Inquiry report into the event highlights a catalogue of incompetence of which the legendary Homer Simpson himself would have been proud!