Sellafield (United Kingdom)

Map of Sellafield

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  • Thermal Oxide Reprocessing plant (Thorp)
  • Calder Hall: 4* 50 MW Magnox GCR units
  • Windscale AGR 30 MW plutonium production reactor - closed 1981
  • Sellafield Mox Plant SMP: Mixed oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel manufacturing plant
2002: Increased risk of leukaemia

Working at the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria may have been harmful after all. Children of men who had been exposed to radiation while working at the plant have twice the normal risk of leukaemia and lymphoma, according to a major new study sponsored by the nuclear industry.
Arguments have been raging for 12 years over whether radiation from Sellafield is to blame for a local cluster of childhood cancers. The suggestion that there was a link between the doses of radiation received by fathers and the incidence of leukaemia among their children was first made in 1990 by the late Martin Gardner, an epidemiologist from the University of Southampton.
But his hypothesis has since been heavily criticised. Many experts have argued that large numbers of people moving in and out of the area, which is thought to spread infections that might increase the risk of cancer, can explain all the extra leukaemia cases seen around Sellafield.
Now, in the biggest and most comprehensive study to date, scientists from the University of Newcastle have refocused the debate. "Gardner may have been right," says Heather Dickinson from the university's North of England Children's Cancer Research Unit. She and her colleague Louise Parker compared the fates of 9859 children fathered by men exposed to radiation at Sellafield with those of 256,851 children born to other fathers in Cumbria between 1950 and 1991.
Throughout the whole of Cumbria, they found that the incidence of leukaemia and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma was twice as high among the Sellafield children. The incidence was 15 times as great in Seascale, a small village next to the nuclear plant. Crucially, they also discovered that the risk to children rose in line with the radiation dose received by their fathers.
Read more: International Journal of Cancer (vol 99, p 437)

Facilities in Sellafield

plantreactor typconstruction startoperation startshut down
Calder Hall-1GCR195319562002
Calder Hall-2GCR195319572002
Calder Hall-3GCR195519582002
Calder Hall-4GCR195519592003
Sellafield Mox Plantreprocessing complex
Thorpreprocessing plant
WindscaleAGR195819631981
2009-02-17

Closure of Sellafield Mox-Fuel plant?
"One of the great white elephants of Britain's atomic industry looks set for closure, according to documents published by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). The NDA is examining the closure of Sellafield's troubled "mixed oxide" or Mox production plant, which has performed badly since it was opened 10 years ago.

The plant's closure would make it more likely that a 100-tonne stockpile of highly radioactive plutonium will be stored until the wider Sellafield site in Cumbria is shut down, rather than turned into new fuel, say industry figures. The Mox plant was set up to manufacture new fuel from recycled plutonium and uranium on site.

The death knell for the reprocessing facility is effectively delivered in the NDA's just-published Plutonium Topic Strategy, which says: "NDA have reviewed SMP and do not believe that it provides either the capacity or longevity to be used for the UK civil stockpile and the recycle options that NDA has considered [assuming] that plutonium is either sold direct or that Mox [mixed oxide] is fabricated in a new plant. There may be an opportunity to utilise the [existing] plant in a meaningful manner for the low specification Mox option."

The NDA declined to comment, insisting it had yet to decide on a formal recommendation and pointing out that the final decision would be taken by ministers.

But the wording of the technical review of the SMP makes clear it is close to dead, and well placed industry sources said there was little chance it would stay open, believing the reference to a "low-specification" role was merely cosmetic.

The plant cost £470m to build but, with the construction costs written off, it was assessed by government-appointed consultants in 2001 to have a net positive value of only £216m - and this was partly based on winning back Japanese business, which proved hard after the falsification of quality-assurance data in 1999.

Green groups opposed the facility as uneconomic when it was proposed in the late 1990s. But it was given the go-ahead by ministers on the basis that it would reprocess 120 tonnes of fuel a year for use in Britain and abroad.

It has suffered repeated breakdowns and, last spring, the then energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, admitted in response to a parliamentary question that SMP had managed to reprocess only 2.6 tonnes of fuel per year between 2002 and 2007.

Between 1998 and 2002, the plant produced annual figures respectively of 2.3 tonnes, 0.3 tonnes, 0 tonnes and 0 tonnes following a string of technical difficulties. Wicks said it was using "largely unproven technology" and admitted that even when it operated at top capacity it could produce only 72 tonnes a year by 2001."

(source: The Guardian, Feb. 17 2009)

2008-08-24

Nuclear waste containers likely to fail, warns 'devastating' report
Environment Agency reveals thousands of holders do not meet basic specifications for storage and disposal

/www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/nuclear-waste-containers-likely-to-fail-warns-devastating-report-907200.html

Tens of thousands of nuclear waste containers are currently
being stored above ground, mainly at the Sellafield nuclear
plant in Cumbria, according to the Environment Agency report.

Thousands of containers of lethal nuclear waste are likely to fail before being safely sealed away underground, a devastating official report concludes.
The unpublicised report is by the Environment Agency, which has to approve any proposals for getting rid of the waste that remains deadly for tens of thousands of years.
The document effectively destroys Britain's already shaky disposal plans just as ministers are preparing an expansion of nuclear power.
It shows that many containers used to store the waste are made of second-rate materials, are handled carelessly, and are liable to corrode.
The report concludes: "It is cautious to assume a significant proportion will fail." It says computer models suggest up to 40 per cent of them could be at risk.
Britain's leading expert on nuclear waste yesterday called the report "devastating" and Peter Ainsworth, the Conservative environment spokesman, said he would write to ministers to urge them to "make changes to ensure public safety". He added: "Such a warning from the Environment Agency must be taken extremely seriously. The failure of just one container could prove catastrophic."
The report says that "tens of thousands" of containers of immensely dangerous waste, bound in concrete, are simply being stored above ground, mainly at Sellafield, while the Government and the nuclear industry decide what to do with them. On present plans it is assumed they will remain there for up to another 150 years before being placed in a repository underground. It will take another 50 years to fill the repository, which will then remain open for another 300 years, while the waste is monitored, before being sealed up and buried.
Officially, containers are designed to last for the full five centuries before the repository is closed. But the Environment Agency report questions whether this is "realistic" and says there is an "absence of robust arguments which demonstrate that this target is achievable in practice".
It suggests that the containers are not made of the kinds of stainless steel best able to resist corrosion and questions whether the types used are "fit for purpose over an extended time period".
It reveals that their internal surfaces are not treated to remove vulnerabilities to corrosion, and that some have seals "that are not expected to be durable over periods of hundreds of years". It also discloses that some operators have touched the steel drums with their bare hands, although the rules require gloves, depositing sweat that can also lead to corrosion.
Tens of thousands of containers already in store have been produced to less exacting specifications, which do not even attempt to make them safe for the necessary 500 years. The report adds that the implications of this do not seem to have been "fully considered". Some 17,000 containers in storage contain a kind of nuclear waste that reacts with cement and so is expected to fracture the concrete encapsulating it within 140 years.
Computer models show, the report says, that 40 per cent of the containers could fail within 1,000 years, and that under "certain scenarios" this timescale could shrink to "less than 200 years". It concludes: "It is not clear how package integrity during storage can be assured over the extended timescales now being suggested."
Yesterday, Professor Gordon MacKerron, who until recently chaired the Government's official Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, called the report "devastating". He said that it should prove a "nail in the coffin" of proposals to keep the waste accessible for hundreds of years. He said: "If we are going to dispose of the waste, this should be done as quickly as reasonably possible."
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will consider the report this week.

2007-01-10

On 10th January 2007 a contamination event occurred within the Sellafield Mixed Oxide fuel fabrication plant (SMP) involving five workers. Biological sampling initiated by the licensee, British Nuclear Group Sellafield Ltd (BNGSL) has confirmed that the doses received by the workers were all less than the annual limit for intake. BNGSL initiated a Board of Inquiry that will report its finding during the next quarter. HM Nuclear Installations Inspectorate has undertaken its own investigation into the event and the analysis of this will be completed during the next quarter.
(source: http://www.hse.gov.uk/nuclear)

2006-10-01

For the period 1 October 2006 to 31 December 2006:
"A formal investigation has been undertaken by NII into the incident involving a major injury accident (a broken arm, fractured ulna and crush injuries to the wrist) to one of BNGSL workers whilst maintaining equipment in the Waste Treatment Complex Supercompactor Glovebox Suite on the Sellafield Licensed Site.

The results of the investigation have given rise to concerns regarding BNGSL’s arrangements for compliance with The Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 (IRR’s) and The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER).

Both the NII investigation and BNGSL’s own Board of Inquiry have identified that several issues have arisen regarding the efficient working of the Supercompactor equipment.

These issues combined to promote degraded conditions and unreliability of the equipment and the requirement for frequent manual interventions. This resulted in the persons working on the plant being exposed to unacceptable risk from the serious and significant committed dose potential of a glove/skin puncture wound, as well as physical major injury.

NII investigation has shown that the unreliability stemmed from the equipment being used under conditions outside of its original design intent and not being maintained in efficient working order and in good repair.

BNGSL have responded cooperatively and proactively to both the Board of Inquiry report and the NII investigation and this has informed NII thinking with respect to the requirement for formal enforcement action.

An Improvement Notice is to be issued to enforce the necessary improvements required to make working on the Supercompactor Glovebox suite safe. "
(source: http://www.hse.gov.uk/nuclear/quarterly-stat/2006-4.htm)

2005-04-18

"The leak of 83 cubic meters of dissolved nuclear fuel at Sellafield’s THORP reprocessing plant could not have
come at a worse time for the plant’s operators British Nuclear Group (BNG). Consisting of an estimated 22
tons of dissolved fuel from a European customer and including some 160kg of plutonium, the leak occurred
just days after British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), of which BNG is one of four business groups, handed ownership
of the Sellafield site and THORP to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) on April 1"

First detected on 18th April when operators realized that material already sheared and dissolved had not
reached the accountancy tank, in cell cameras pinpointed the source and extent of the leak. How long
the pipe had been leaking remains one of the issues under investigation by a BNG Board of Investigation and by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII)."

source: nuclear monitor no 628

2005-02-13

"On 13 February 2005, three staff were contaminated whilst changing a thermocouple on Thorp Head End Dissolver vessel C. The risk assessment for the work did not anticipate a breach of containment, as the design intent was for the thermocouple separated from the dissolved nuclear fuel by being located inside a sealed tube called a ‘thermowell’. This intent was not achieved. After initial incident, whilst seeking reassurance monitoring, the workers spread contamination to various plant areas and were then taken to site surgery for decontamination. The workers were contaminated on the face and hands and decontamination of the hands continued over several days. BNGSL have advised NII that no statutory dose limits were exceeded, although one worker received an extremity dose greater than 10% of the annual statutory limit.

On the day of the event, the Thorp Incident Control Centre was set up and plant access restricted until decontamination was complete. Investigations indicated that there was a slight leak in the Dissolver C thermowell, which appears to have allowed contamination in-seepage. Following completion of the BNGSL investigation, a second barrier was engineered around the thermowell pocket and the dissolver was returned to normal operations.

BNGSL’s analysis of the amount of contamination on the thermocouple and the smaller amount contaminating the people and spread on plant, indicated a spillage which exceeded Ministerial reporting criteria by virtue of the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999, Schedule 8, column 4. BNGSL advised NII that they were reporting this event under these criteria.

In response to the event BNGSL set up a Board of Inquiry, which reported promptly, and NII is satisfied with the Board’s conclusions.The licensee’s (or BNGSL’s – without “the”; Thorp is a building) response to the recommendations will be monitored by NII the coming months. "
(source: http://www.hse.gov.uk/nuclear/quarterly-stat/2005-1.htm)

2003-03-31

NPP finally shut down

The world's oldest industrial scale nuclear power station, Calder Hall in northwest England, is to shut down because of weak power prices.

State-owned nuclear power firm BNFL said in a statement that the 196 megawatt plant, small by the standards of more modern nuclear reactors.

Calder Hall was opened in 1956 at BNFL's Sellafield nuclear site. It is one of seven plants built in Britain using the costly Magnox technology, abandoned everywhere else in the world already but still producing about five percent of Britain's electricity.

Calder Hall was originally scheduled for closure in 2006, along with two larger stations, but BNFL said last year it expected to bring forward the closure.

Calder's sister station at Chapelcross in Scotland has experienced a serious problem with the chargepan, used to guide the highly-radioactive fuel rods into place. The problem is caused by radiation- induced graphite shrinkage.

On July 5. 2001, problems arose when a container with 24 used fuel rods hit the floor at the Chapelcross plant. Quick reactions from staff prevented a major nuclear fire. As a result of this accident, BNFL introduced a temporary halt of all fuel transmitters at Chapelcross and Calder Hall, which both use the same systems to transmit fuel.

As a result Calder Hall was shut down for about six months while investigations where carried out . At least BNFL decided to close the plant finally.

2002-09-12

Norway is putting intense pressure on Britain to drastically cut radioactive releases from the Sellafield nuclear plant ahead of an official decision on discharge limits for the isotope technetium-99. Norwegian anger has risen to new heights following news that Sellafield operator BNFL is planning to release in one batch a third of its total annual permitted amount of technetium.
BNFL is currently authorised to discharge up to 90 TBq of technetium per year. The UK government is due to rule shortly on a proposal from the Anglo-Welsh environment agency to cut the limit to 10 TBq from 2006 !!

2002-07-03

BNFL has been warned by the nuclear installations inspectorate that two sets of tanks containing nuclear waste in sludge and liquid form are in dangerous condition. Neither the structural integrity of the tanks, nor the building containing them, could be guaranteed beyond 10 years and therefore the tanks must be emptied as soon as possible. BNFL has already put up a steel building around the tanks and also has commissioned specialised machinery to empty the tanks. Also planning and building new tanks had to start soon, since such construction took a long time, unless another solution for processing the waste could be found. Systems for turning liquid wastes into glass blocks have not been working properly.

2002-06-30

The problems associated with Intermediate-Level Waste
Intermediate-Level Waste (ILW), which, although it doesn't generate its own heat like high-level waste, is still extremely dangerous, and requires very careful stewardship. The current nuclear programme will generate some 215,000 cubic metres of this category of waste, 74,000 cubic metres of which are already stored at sites around the UK - more than half at Sellafield. Surprisingly 5,000 cubic metres are located in Oxfordshire at Harwell, 2,000 cubic metres at Aldermaston, and the rest spread around the nuclear station sites and Royal Dockyards.
88% of the ILW is not stored in, what is called a 'safe, passive Form'. In other words it is in a dangerous condition.
Some 28,000 cubic metres of the waste not stored safely is described by the nuclear industry's waste management agency, Nirex, as 'challenging'. These are wastes which are difficult to 'immobilise', in other words may easily leak out of their packaging; wastes which could spontaneously combust in contact with normal air; wastes which are far too heterogeneous or mixed to be safely packaged in their current form.
The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII), the Government's nuclear regulator, reported in 1997 that these wastes may be poorly 'characterised' - in other words we don't really know what's there; they are 'potentially mobile' so may leak out into the groundwater or wider environment, and they are in a physically and chemically degraded condition, in '40-50 year old facilities that fall below current standards and are subject to further deterioration'. In other words, unknown waste, which could easily leak, stored in buildings which are falling down.
Since then the NII has become increasingly concerned at the lack of progress in addressing the problem, and on several occasions recently it has had to resort to using its legal powers to persuade BNFL "to target areas on the Sellafield site where waste management practice or progress has not been acceptable".
One of the biggest problems seems to be British Nuclear Fuels' reluctance to spend money 'characterising' the waste it has built up over the past five decades. We have got to know the chemical and physical properties of the waste and the radiation content before we can decide how best to package and store the waste as safely as possible. The company recently spent £400 million building a plant known as 'Drypac' on the Sellafield site. But the plant has still not been commissioned. According to the company 'Drypac is taking a breather'. BNFL is having to re-examine the way it deals with its ILW before it can open the plant. A source close to the industry told me that, BNFL was basically hoping to package its ILW on the cheap, without characterizing the waste first. Now it has wasted £400 million on a new plant, it has realized that the cheap option won't work.

Moreover the Intermediate-Level Waste British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) has almost 1600 cubic metres of extremely dangerous liquid high level waste, which has to be constantly cooled, stored in tanks at Sellafield. We also know that Sellafield has a stockpile of around 70 tonnes of weapons-useable plutonium, and that this could increase to 150 tonnes over the next decade or so.

The Author Peter Roche is an anti-nuclear campaigner with Greenpeace UK. You can write to him via info@uk.greenpeace.org.

2002-06-24

British Nuclear Fuels was accelerating the closure of Calder Hall from 2006 to March 2003. Green groups have been campaigning for years for the plants to be closed, claiming they are operating beyond their original design lives and are no longer safe.
Norman Askew, BNFL chief executive, insisted the plants were still safe but were no longer financially viable because of high overheads and worsening power market conditions.
Mr Askew said many jobs would be secure because of the need to decommission the plants, but some losses were inevitable. Union officials called on ministers to bring forward proposals for new nuclear reactors at the sites. The government has said it is up to the private sector to build new plants.

2002-06-13

At port Takahama two British ships are due to take 225 kg of plutonium to England. BNFL committed itself to take back the material, after freight documents had been falsified in the new mixed-oxid (production) plant in Sellafield three years ago and Japan, the most important customer of the British, threatened with the cancellation of all business affairs.
On a route of 27.000 kilometers the plutonium is now to be returned to Sellafield, remeasured and packed and then delivered to Japan again. Commercial requirements and the will of the government to continue using Sellafield force this journey.
The Irish Government is trying to get international support to stop two ships carrying nuclear waste passing through the Irish Sea. Irish Environment Minister Martin Cullen said: "This type of shipment is totally unacceptable to the world at large and the international community.

2002-01-20

BNFL will test the possibility of storing the radioactive material Technitium-99 on land.

2002-01-11

BNFL completed all spent fuel shipments from Muehlenberg to Sellafield. Since 1995, 29 metric tons of spent fuel has been transported from Muehlenberg in Switzerland to Sellafield for reprocessing. The transports were suspended from 1998 to May 2001 because of Europe-wide concerns about contamination of transport casks. Other Swiss utilities still have spent fuel for THORP, and a further 28 transports remain until the end of Swiss spent fuel shipments to Sellafield.

2001-12-03

After the approvement of the authorisation of the Sellafield controversial mixed oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel manufacturing plant (SMP) the Irish government decided to take every possible legal step to stop operation of the SMP.

The main reasons are: The UK has withheld key information relating to the economic justification for commissioning the plant. There is no proper environmental impact assessment (EIA) by the UK government of a terrorist attack at the new MOX facility or on ships carrying nuclear cargoes through the Irish sea. Also Britain will be breaking a number of binding international maritime, EU and UN conventions relating to pullution of the marine environment by allowing new radioactive discharges into the Irish sea when the MOX plant becomes operational.

On 19/11/01 the Government of Ireland has asked the United Nations International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to issue provisional measures that would suspend the license for the BNFL Sellafield MOX plant. They have also asked that the Tribunal instructs the UK government to not permit any nuclear transport into or out of the UK associated with the operation of the SMP. Ireland has filed for a full hearing before an arbitral tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which would not begin until 2002.

On 3/12/01 Ireland welcomes Order from the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea recognising that the United Kingdom must stop radioactive pollution of the Irish Sea and they have an obligation to co-operate with Ireland.

Ireland and the United Kingdom now have to report back to the International Tribunal on the measures they have devised to prevent pollution of the Irish Sea from the MOX plant.

If it is not possible to reach such agreement Ireland has the right to return on the International Tribunal for further relief, as soon as 18th of December.

The Tribunal has decisively accepted Ireland's rights under the Convention. It has said that these rights must be protected. It has rejected both arguments of the United Kingdom, namely that no provisional measures should be ordered and that Ireland should pay the UK's costs. The Tribunal has ordered the United Kingdom to devise measures to prevent pollution of the Irish Sea from the MOX plant. The Tribunal recognised the United Kingdom's statement that before October 2002 there would be no additional marine transports of radioactive material either to or from Sellafield as a result of the commissioning of the MOX plant.

The Irish Government calls on the United Kingdom to delay commissioning until the parties have reached agreement on measures to prevent pollution from the MOX plant, in accordance with the Tribunal's Order.

The targets of the Irish Government in this process are to ensure that the United Kingdom permanently ceases to pollute the Irish Sea, subjects the MOX plant to a proper environmental assessment, and cooperates more fully with Ireland. They will also be proceeding to persuade the OSPAR arbitration tribunal to order the United Kingdom to disclose the information on the MOX plant that it is withholding. And they will be considering
what steps, if any, to take on challenging before the European Court of Justice the United Kingdom's decision that the MOX plant is economically justified."

2001-11-23
The European Parliament released a consultancy study on the potential risks posed by nuclear fuel reprocessing operations in the UK and France. It concludes that the European Commission has failed to verify the accuracy of safety data and therefore cannot "guarantee" that standards are being met; that radioactive discharges from both sites violate the OSPAR convention on the protection of the north east Atlantic; that reprocessing operations cannot be ruled out as a cause of higher leukaemia rates near the plants; and that the "great uncertainties" in assessment of health effects mean that reprocessing runs contrary to the precautionary principle. In the study there are also policy recommendations for the restriction or the ending of reprocessing. It also lists a range of measures to improve public access to data and expert opinion on health risks. WISE PARIS ? Draft Final Report for the STOA Panel: Possible toxic effects from the nuclear reprocessing plants at Sellafield and cap de la Hague: http://www.wise-paris.org/
2001-10-22

In a debate in the European parliament about potential terrorist attacks on nuclear power plants or nuclear fuel reprocessing plants Irish Green M EP Nuala Ahern is calling for "no fly zones" to be established around Sellafield in Britain and La Hague in France.

2001-10-03
After a total of five separate public consultation exercises, beginning in February 1997, the Government has finally approved the authorisation of the Sellafield controversial mixed oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel manufacturing plant (SMP). That SMP, built at a cost of 739.2 million Euro, has not operated since its completion in 1997, because of safety breaches which were discovered at a smaller "demonstration" facility. BNFL plans to make Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) for foreign customers in it, by mixing uranium with plutonium, separated in Sellafield's THORP reprocessing plant, for new reactor rods. Britain's environment and health ministries concluded that operating the plant would produce a net financial benefit, as required under a 1996 Euratom directive. Over the plant's lifetime, the "net present value" of this benefit would be over Euro 240m). The environment ministry added that "wider risks and benefits" had also been taken into account in reaching the decision. Plutonium separated in THORP was originally intended for use in a new generation of reactors called "fast-breeders". These reactors have failed and there is now no operating commercial fast breeder reactor in the world, nor any plan to build one. Burning plutonium in conventional reactors is more dangerous and expensive than burning conventional nuclear fuel. Greenpeace names the following reasons why SMP should not open: 1. BNFL has shown no economic benefit to operating the plant because operation of the SMP was forecast to make UK 200m profit, but the cost of building it was over UK 460m. The estimated profit also relies on customers signing contracts that do not yet exist. BNFL has firm contracts for less than 10 % of its potential production. In 1999 there was a scandal in which BNFL workers falsified safety data for the new MOX fuel pellets. BNFL's reputation was damaged word-wide, especially in Japan which was about to load a trial batch of the fuel into a reactor. Japanese utilities have so far refused to sign MOX contracts with BNFL. Using MOX fuel in reactors is more expensive and more difficult than using normal nuclear fuel, so there is no reason for BNFL's customers to want it. 2. SMP will exacerbate the world-wide problem of nuclear weapons proliferation. Plutonium is one of the most dangerous materials in the world. As little as 6 kg is required to make a nuclear bomb. Fare less is required to make a "dirty bomb" ? conventional explosive added to plutonium so it causes widespread contamination on detonation. Sellafield itself may also be a terrorist target because of the large quantities of plutonium stored there. 3. The financial and environmental consequences of nuclear transport accidents have not been considered in the public information provided on the SMP to date. There will be potentially 50 to 80 nuclear fuel shipments over the next ten years to Europe and Japan. 4. Operation of the SMP will mean that some radioactive discharges will occur from the SMP, which will add to existing discharges from the site. The destination of much of this waste remains unknown, following Nirex's failure to get planning permission to build the first stage of Britain's underground nuclear waste dump at Sellafield. Also the SMP becomes contaminated with radioactivity. http://www.britishnuclearfuels.com/documents.html http://www.greenpeace.org/
2001-09-20
Concentrations of technetium 99 in Norwegian seaweed have risen from 100 to 600 Bq/kg dry weight over the five-year period, according to figures from the Institute for Energy Technology in Norway. The isotope has been discharged by the UK plant since 1994, but was first detected off Scandinavia only three years ago. Norway has previously called for an 80 % cut in technetium emissions. The scale of technetium releases has been significant because BNFL has been unable to develop technology to strip the substance out of a liquid waste stream resulting from reprocessing of Magnox reactor spent fuel. For several years the plant had a licence to discharge 200 terabequerels (TBq) per year. This was cut by over half to 90 TBq in 1999. The Environment Agency, published its proposed decision on the future regulation of technetium-99 (Tc-99) discharges from BNFL Sellafield into the Irish Sea on 20-Sep-2001. This follows a major public consultation carried out by the Agency. At present the medium active concentrate (MAC), which contains the Tc-99, resulting from Magnox reprocessing is treated to remove radionuclides such as plutonium and americium. The effluent from this process, still containing the Tc-99, is then discharged to the Irish Sea. The Agency's proposed decision would require BNFL from March 2003 to divert future arisings of MAC to the high active storage and treatment plants for incorporation into glass blocks, and to continue development of technology to deal with the MAC which is currently being stored at Sellafield. Successful implementation of the proposal will mean the Agency can reduce the limit on technetium discharges from 90 Terabecquerals (TBq) per year to 10TBq per year from about 2006. Sellafield's emissions of caesium-137 and strontium-90 would also be substantially reduced. http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/news/169426 Sellafield RSA Review - Technetium-99 Decision Document of the environment-agency: http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/yourenv/consultations/168412/?version=1
2001-03-06

"On 6 March 2001, during a routine glove change operation on a glovebox in the plutonium processing section of the B205 Magnox reprocessing plant at Sellafield, plutonium contamination was released into the working area.

This occurred when a seal weld on a waste export bag failed, releasing contaminated waste items onto the floor. Two workers were exposed to elevated levels of airborne plutonium, and BNFL's early estimate is that they have each received an effective internal exposure of about 4 mSv.

BNFL's best estimate of the amount of radioactive material spilled is 24 Mbq of plutonium-239 and 720 Mbq of plutonium-241. This is 24 times the reporting level specified in IRR99 for plutonium-239 and seven times that specified for plutonium-241. BNFL has recovered the spilled material and decontaminated the working area. There was no release of radioactivity to the environment following the event or during the clean up activities.

HSE investigated the event and required BNFL to undertake a site wide review of similar operations. This confirmed that there was a wide variation in the methods used for work within plutonium gloveboxes on the site. BNFL has developed an action plan to prevent a recurrence in B205. In addition, BNFL is reviewing its methods for carrying out plutonium glovebox operations.

HSE is considering taking formal regulatory action. The incident was classified as Level 1 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES)."
(source: http://www.hse.gov.uk/nuclear/quarterly-stat/2001-1.htm)

2001-01-30
During the late 1970's and 1980's, British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) signed contracts with overseas electrical utility's in Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and UK, for the reprocessing of these countries' spent nuclear fuel. BNFL's Sellafield site (THORP) began operation in 1994. THORP has never operated as planned, with continual shutdowns due to design problems, leaks, faulty equipment and accidents. Since 1994 until January 2001 the amount of reprocessed fuel was only 3164 tons. For the first decade there was expected an amount of 7000 tons. As a result BNFL is behind schedule in reprocessing and will not complete base-load contracts as agreed with customers in 2004. In late January 2001, BNFL's vitrification plant were shut down due to an accident that could have led to an explosion in the high level waste tanks. Additionally the one operating plutonium fuel MOX plant, Mox Demonstration Facility (MDF), has been shut down due to revelations that BNFL deliberately falsified vital quality control data for fuel produced for Japanese, German and Swiss clients. BNFL has agreed to pay UK 110 million pounds to cover compensation and transport costs for returning rejected plutonium MOX fuel from its Japanese client, Kansai Electric. http://www.britishnuclearfuels.com/documents.html
2000-10-09

"A loss of electrical supplies to a large portion of the Sellafield site was experienced during Monday 9th October 2000. The failure centred on faults experienced on a new section of 11kV switchgear. Supplies were re-established within 47 minutes of the loss, well within the two hours allowed for in the safety case.

The actions of BNFL during the recovery phase from the incident were found to be generally commendable, ensuring reinstatement of electrical supplies to the affected area well within the time allowed in the safety case.

An NII team carried out an initial investigation into the incident. It concluded that the direct cause was a defective component in new electrical switchgear being installed as part of a project to update the electrical infrastructure on the site. The work was being carried out by Norweb, as contractors to BNFL, to arrangements that were regarded as standard practice for this sort of work.

BNFL also carried out an investigation, which came to similar conclusions. This report is still formally awaited by NII, although there has been sufficient progress in satisfying NII's safety concerns with respect to the electrical infrastructure at Sellafield.

The incident was classified as Level 1 on the International Nuclear Events Scale (INES)."
(source: http://www.hse.gov.uk/nuclear/quarterly-stat/2000-4.htm)

1998-07-28

At British Nuclear Fuels Calder Hall, reactor 4 had a valve ham during routine fuel discharge operations when a piece of material from a grab caught in the mechanism.

1997-09-01

The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate has given the final green-light for the British nuclear fuel company, BNFL, to operate its thermal oxide reprocessing plant, Thorp.
Active commissioning of Thorp started with fuel being sheared in March 1994. The plant has since reprocessed well over 800 tonnes of fuel.
Spent fuel still contains a lot of uranium, as well as plutonium produced during the fuel's use in a power reactor. Reprocessing involves removing the metal casing from around the fuel, dissolving the fuel in hot
acid and chemically separating the uranium, plutonium and waste. The uranium and plutonium can then be used in the manufacture of fresh fuel for
nuclear power plants.

Thorp has over 15 years' worth of orders valued at £12 billion, two-thirds of them from overseas. The flagship plant is expected to make a profit of at least £500 million in its first ten years, after accounting for all
decommissioning and capital costs.

1997-05-22

New Canadian data show radioactivity from British Nuclear Fuels reprocessing complex at Sellafield spreading through the Arctic Ocean to its northern waters, according to the last issue of New Scientist. It says the data is to be presented at a conference in Tromso, Norway, next month. It said that the "plume of iodine-129" which penetrated beyond Siberia to the northwestern shores of Canada at a depth of about 200 meters" and the accompanying cesium 137 are having " a bigger impact on the Arctic" than contamination from Chernobyl. BNFL said in response, "The article is based on data from scientists at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Nova Scotia, but when author Fred Pearce was asked on Radio Cumbria what kind of impact these discharges were having in the Arctic he replied: Very little to be honest." BNFL said its investment in treatment facilities at Sellafield had reduced radioactive discharges from the site to "just 1% of their peak" in the mid-1970s.

1997-04-05

Magnox Electric wins Windscale job to demonstrate dismantling:
Magnox Electric plc has won a 10-million-pound contract to dismantle the core of the Windscale experimental advanced gascooled reactor (WAGR) as part of a demonstration that a full-sized reactor can be decommissioned safely and cost-effectively.
Magnox Electric's initial work will center on preparing to operate the 8-million-pound Remote Dismantling Machine (RDM). RDM has a robotic manipulator arm with a range of versatile attachments, the principal one being an oxy-propane torch capable of cutting through stainless steel.
Actual core dismantling is about two years away. Magnox Electric's contractual work is expected to take approximately four years.
AEA Technology sources estimate that the mass of intermediate level waste (ILW) in the core and pressure vessel amounts to some 840 metric tons. This ILW will be stored at a specially built facility on site until the availability of a long-term repository for the UK has been decided.
The 33-MW AGR was commissioned in 1957 by the UKAEA as an industrial-scale development model for the British AGR stations. It operated at its design output of 100 MW (thermal) during an 18-year research and development program and was shut down in 1981. Defueling was completed in 1983, followed by the dismantling of the top of the reactor to enable installation of the remote dismantling system.
The cost of the AGR project to date amounts to around 80-million pounds, with funding from the UK´s Department of Trade & Industry, the European Commission, and the British nuclear industry. It is being supervised by UKAEA in partnership with AEA Technology's Managing Agency. The aim has always been to fully decommission WAGR to a green-field site, but when UKAEA announced the new Magnox Electric contract April 25, it described eventual green field status as just "one of the options".

1996-09-04

40th year anniversary: average annual output has been consistently 90%.
BNFL says the 40-year milestone is a reflection of the plant's sound design,construction and safe operation.
In summer UK's nuclear regulators allowed Calder Hall and its sister Chapelcross in Scotland to operate for a further 10 years to a potential age of 50.

1995-11-15

U.K.'s AEA Technology, as managing agent, completed the removal of four massive 190-ton heat exchangers from the Sellafield reprocessing complex's most famous landmark, the Windscale prototype advanced gas-cooled reactor (WAGR) - better known as the "Golf Ball" because of the shape of ist dome.
The exchangers, arranged in pairs inside the reactor containment building, acted as steam generators during the operation of WAGR, which closed in 1982. WAGR decommissioning is the responsibility of UKAEA-Government Division (GD), which runs the licensed Windscale site within BNFL's Sellafield reprocessing complex.
UKAEA-GD was officially established in the public sector last year to take care of the 7.5-billion pounds ( US$ 11.8-billion) historic nuclear liabilities (in undiscounted terms) of the old United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. UKAEA-GD lists WAGR as one of 29 "main decommissioning tasks" at its Donreay, Culham, Harwell, Windscale, and Winfrith sites. The rest of the UKAEA became AEA Technology, which is being privatized as a scientific and engineering services business.
WAGR is being used to demonstrate the feasibility of power reactor dismantling. Project cost is put at 80-million pounds.
WAGR's fuel and other highly radioactive materials were removed when the reactor was shut down. With the heat exchangers gone, the next stage is completing installation of equipment for treating remaining waste. An 8-million-pound remote dismantling machine has already been installed to carry out this work, according to UKAEA-GD spokesperson Andy Munn. He added that a contract is to be let shortly for remote dismantling of the WAGR core and packaging of the waste.

1995-07-04

A fitter carrying out maintenance in a hoist park at the vitrification plant received a significant radiation dose which was estimated at up to 4 times the annual limit !! (Hoist parks are shielded areas used for the maintenance of cranes which move items in the heavily contaminated area.) - annual skin dose limit is 0,5 Sv. The maintenance worker received a dose of 2 Sv on the right knee, because his overall was heavily contaminated.

1995-04-25

BNFL announced that the 4 Calder Hall Magnox units - located at Sellafield reprocessing site will operate solely as an electricity generator, following the end of military plutonium production at Sellafield.

1995-02-27

Scottish Nuclear Ltd. (SNL) and BNFL agreed a contract for fuel circle services:1044 tons of spent fuel from Scottish AGRs will be stored in BNFLs long term surface storage ( cost: 6300 million US$).
BNFL offered "very attractive prices" because its pond storage facility is already up and running. the fuel is planned to be stored at BNFL for 80 years.
Therefore SNL could save to build its own dry storage.
Additional 550 tons of spent fuel from SNL will be reprocessed at Thorp. Under earlier contracts SNl hasd already agreed to reprocess up to 948 tons of spent AGR fuel at Thorp.

1994-03-15

Operating rules to avoid a fuel fire during transport of spent Magnox fuel within the complex have been broken by operators. BNFL was fined 24.000 US$, because an alarm was ignored and the flask was not filled with enough water.