Whitehaven News

The Whitehaven News

Thursday, February 08, 2001


THE Government's safety watchdog has put the squeeze on BNFL over its stocks of high-level radio-active waste at Sellafield.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has warned it is prepared to halt one of the site's most vital functions - Thorp reprocessing - if BNFL fails to reduce its potentially dangerous liquid waste stocks within a certain time limit.

Water-cooled tanks hold the waste which BNFL has to convert into glass blocks for safer storage.

The HSE insists the glassification process is speeded up in order to reduce the liquid quantities and has issued BNFL with a legal order to meet targets.

Director of nuclear safety Laurence Williams said: "We will not hesitate to use our regulatory powers to halt Thorp reprocessing should that be necessary, in order to keep BNFL within the specification.

"We will closely review BNFL's strategy every two years in the light of the prevailing circumstances, such as changes to BNFL's business plans and reprocessing contracts, and further advances in technology, to identify any further reasonably practicable reductions."

BNFL said the liquor was produced by both the Magnox and Thorp reprocessing plants and blended to ensure vitrification efficiency and minimise the solid waste produced. The company said it was committed to reducing the waste stocks.

The head of waste management services at Sellafield, Phil Hallington, said: "Difficulties during the early years of the vitrification plant have been ironed out and the throughput has increased in recent years.

"Our commitment to meeting these requirements is underlined by the investment of 320 million in a new vitrification facility which is expected to come on stream during this year."