Office for Nuclear Regulation

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Sellafield Limited pleads guilty to nuclear regulators’ charges

7 February, 2013

Sellafield Limited today pleaded guilty at Workington Magistrates’ Court to sending several bags of radioactive waste to the wrong facility.

The company was prosecuted by nuclear regulators Environment Agency and the Office for Nuclear Regulation after four bags of mixed general waste, such as plastic, paper, tissues, clothing, wood and metal, from normal operations in controlled areas of the site, were sent to Lillyhall landfill site, in Workington. The bags should have been sent to Drigg, Cumbria – a specialist facility that treats and stores low level radioactive waste.

Sellafield found the error was caused by a new monitor which had passed the bags as ‘general’ waste making them exempt from strict disposal controls.

All of the original four bags were retrieved from the landfill and returned to Sellafield for correct disposal.  Extensive reassurance monitoring was carried out by a number of organisations, including the Environment Agency, Waste Group Recycling Limited and Sellafield Limited, which confirmed that there was no contamination left at the site or on the landfill equipment.

Ian Parker, Nuclear Regulation Manager for the Environment Agency, said: “Our overriding aim in regulating the nuclear industry is to protect people and the environment from the release of radioactive wastes into the environment.

“We have carried out a thorough investigation in partnership with the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and have already required Sellafield Ltd to take action to ensure this does not happen again.

“This work of decommissioning and clean-up of the site is a national priority and we will continue to work with Sellafield Ltd, fellow regulators and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to ensure that, in meeting this challenge, Sellafield Ltd maintains high standards of environmental performance to protect people and the environment.

Ian Barlow from the Office for Nuclear Regulation, said: “We require the nuclear industry to control its hazards and ensure it has effective procedures in place for transporting and disposing of all forms of radioactive material, including waste. Where necessary, we will use enforcement action to protect people and society from the hazards of the nuclear industry.”

Sentencing will take place on 8 March 2013 at Carlisle Crown Court*

*This has been re-scheduled – check with Carlisle Crown Court for the latest date.

The charges were:  

1. SELLAFIELD LIMITED on or about the 12th day of April 2010, operated a regulated facility involving the disposal of non exempt radioactive waste at Waste Group Recycling Limited’s landfill site at Lillyhall Cumbria outside the extent authorised by an environmental permit, contrary to Regulations 12(1)(a) and 38(1)(a) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.

2. SELLAFIELD LIMITED between 1st day of November 2009 and the 5th day of April 2010, being a person to whom an authorisation, namely BX9838 was granted under section 13 of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 did not comply with a limitation or condition of that authorisation, namely Schedule 1 condition 4(b) of the said authorisation, in that it failed to check at an appropriate frequency, the effectiveness of systems, equipment and procedures provided for the disposal of radioactive waste, contrary to Section 32(1)(c) of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993.

3. SELLAFIELD LIMITED between 6th day of April 2010 and the 19th day of April 2010, failed to comply with or contravened an environmental permit condition, namely Schedule 1 condition 4(b) of environmental permit BX9838, in that it failed to check at an appropriate frequency, the effectiveness of systems, equipment and procedures provided for the disposal of radioactive waste, contrary to Regulation 38(2) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010

4.SELLAFIELD LIMITED between 15th day of November 2008 and the 5th day of April 2010, being a person to whom an authorisation, namely BX9838 was granted under section 13 of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 did not comply with a limitation or condition of that authorisation, namely Schedule 1 condition 6(a) of the said authorisation, in that it failed to have a management system, organisational structure and resources in place which were sufficient to achieve compliance with the limitations and conditions of the said authorisation, contrary to Section 32(1)(c) of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993

5.SELLAFIELD LIMITED between 6th day of April 2010 and the 19th day of April 2010, failed to comply with or contravened an environmental permit condition, namely Schedule 1 condition 6(a) of environmental permit BX9838, in that it failed to have a management system, organisational structure and resources in place which were sufficient to achieve compliance with the limitations and conditions of the said permit, contrary to Regulation 38(2) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.

6.SELLAFIELD LIMITED between 5th day of March 2009 and the 5th day of April 2010, being a person to whom an authorisation, namely BX9838 was granted under section 13 of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 did not comply with a limitation or condition of that authorisation, namely Schedule 1 condition 12(a) of the said authorisation, in that it failed to have and comply with appropriate criteria for the acceptance into service of systems, equipment and procedures for carrying out any monitoring and measurements necessary to determine compliance with the limitations and conditions of this authorisation, contrary to Section 32(1)(c) of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993.

7. SELLAFIELD LIMITED on and before the 12 April 2010 breached Regulation 5 of the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009 in that it caused or permitted dangerous goods, namely non exempt radioactive waste, to be carried where that carriage did not comply with applicable requirements of ADR (The European agreement governing the international carriage of dangerous goods by road), whereby it committed an offence contrary to section 33(1)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (‘the Act’) and is liable to a penalty pursuant to section 33(2) and Schedule 3A to the Act (as amended by section 1 of the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008).