Managed by British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), Sellafield manufactures nuclear fuel rods, reprocesses spent nuclear fuel from nine countries and treats and stores radioactive wastes. The plant long been controversial - attacked by the Irish government over radioactive emissions to the Irish Sea, by Scandinavian governments over discharges of the radioactive element technetium 99 and by environmental groups which oppose both its manufacture of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel and its fuel reprocessing operations.
In the first of three reports issued today, the UK Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII), part of the national health and safety agency, concludes that workers were able to falsify records on the size of MOX fuel pellets for delivery to Japan because of a "systematic management failure". "The [manufacturing] plant is shut down and will not be allowed to restart until we are satisfied that the recommendations in our report have been implemented, NII chief inspector Laurence Williams said.
A second NII report reviewing general safety measures at the Sellafield plant concludes that the site "lacks a high quality safety management system". In addition, the plant does not have "sufficient resources to implement its existing safety management system," nor does it have an "effective, independent inspection, auditing and review system".
The report finds that "current site operations are safe" despite the shortcomings identified. It calls on BNFL to produce a programme responding to the report's recommendations within two months. Likewise, the report on the data falsification scandal concludes that the false data sheets "would have no effect on safety of the fuel in a nuclear reactor". A third report reviews safety of Sellafield's high-level liquid waste storage operation, which it finds to be "acceptably safe".
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