BNFL fined over chemical leak at Sellafield

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British Nuclear Fuels was fined pounds 32,500 yesterday for a chemical leak at Sellafield which killed nearly 15,000 fish. The nuclear fuel reprocessing company was also ordered to pay nearly pounds 25,000 costs after it was prosecuted by the Environment Agency.

A magistrates' court in Whitehaven, Cumbria, heard that nearly 400 gallons of caustic soda - a highly alkaline chemical - spilled from a part-opened valve one night last July. The liquid, which was not radioactive, flowed through a drain into the River Calder which runs past the Sellafield plant. The agency said BNFL staff made the incident worse when they washed down the caustic soda, causing more of it to flow into the river. The company pleaded guilty to four pollution offences, including one of failing to provide appropriate operating instructions to staff.