Whitehaven News

Sunday, December 17, 2000

THE new nuclear site inspector for Sellafield has sounded a warning to BNFL about cleaning up its legacy of old atomic fuel on the site.

Howard Robinson, of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, told the Sellafield Local Liaison committee: "The site has a large quantity of plutonium on it. There's not a lot wrong with the current storage arrangements but if we are saying it is okay for 50 years time it means a lot of work to condition the plutonium so it is suitable for long-term storage."

The NII chief also reminded the company about its past failings and being prosecuted as a result.

"There have been three improvement notices served in the last five or six months, all about BNFL promising to deliver something to the Inspectorate and when we have come it has not been delivered.

It was revealed that yet another improvement notice was about to be served in connection with B316, one of the site's oldest waste storage buildings and one of the first needing to be emptied. The latest enforcement act follows an NII inspection of the building.

Sellafield's director of operations, Brian Watson, said the aim was to deliver "and we are generally raising our game in terms of retrieving the historic waste legacy."

A new integrated waste retrieval project, costing 1billion, was being put together, in order to tackle the problems.

"We will give it the attention it deserves," promised the site chief.

Grant Gilmour is in charge of the project. His job was described as "a poisoned chalice" by Howard Robinson, but Mr Gilmour responded: "It is a big task and I am delighted to have been asked to do the job. Our business at Sellafield is to sort out the legacy and make some money from commercial activities."

Another team was being assembled to look at issues affecting Sellafield's long-term future, with quality control and culture being priorities, as well as safety.

l Plutonium contaminated waste is on the move again from Drigg to Sellafield after a ban lasting months. BNFL had a self-imposed embargo due to problems with devices for measuring the plutonium content of packages. PCM drums are being moved again but not crates .