Warning over safety of Sellafield reactors

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The Independent Online
TWO DISUSED nuclear reactors at Sellafield in Cumbria, site of a notorious fire in 1957, are still not safe enough, Government nuclear safety advisers said yesterday.

The Atomic Energy Authority was threatened with legal action last year to force it to speed up safety work on the reactors, known as the Windscale Piles, when the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate served an 'improvement notice'.

But according to the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations, 'there are still serious problems not cleared up since the accident occurred there in 1957'. In a report published yesterday, the committee concluded that the reactors fell 'far below' the normal standard, which is that they should be kept 'as safe as reasonably achievable'.

The Windscale Piles were used to provide plutonium for the first British nuclear weapons but they have been closed since 1957, when Pile One caught fire in what was the world's worst nuclear accident until Chernobyl. After the fire, the reactors were partly sealed and untouched for a quarter of a century.

The committee says there are still 15 tons of damaged fuel in the core and a further five tons in the water and air ducts of Pile One.

Dr Roy Nelson, director of decommissioning and waste management for the Atomic Energy Authority, said improvements had been put in hand since the review was carried out.

Report on the accumulation of radioactive waste arising from sites operated by AEA Technology and from plant decommissioning; HSE; pounds 4.00.