Whitehaven News

The Whitehaven News


Thursday, July 05, 2001

A Sellafield "whistleblower" has claimed that BNFL tried to cover up an incident involving a highly radioactive fuel element in Thorp.

The worker, who regularly gives tips to the anti-nuclear group CORE about Sellafield incidents, has made another allegation that the fuel element was left dangling from a machine in Thorp's fuel handling plant.

Says the mystery source, in a letter to CORE: "The machine collided with a fuel container, causing it to lift from its tracks, while the fuel element was bent against the container taking the weight of the machine.

"This operation was supposed to be under managerial and operator supervision at the time of the incident. It shows that BNFL are still operating carelessly even though there is a 'new' safety regime in place and management are attempting to keep quiet any thing that happens in the interest of getting back business."

Martin Forwood, for CORE - Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment - said BNFL had failed to report the incident in the weekly (public) Sellafield Newsletter or at last week's Sellafield Local Liaison Committee meeting.

Mr Forwood has written to Sellafield's chief Brian Watson asking for an explanation and that the incident will not be repeated.

Sellafield spokeswoman Tracey Riley said: "There was an incident but nothing like it has been made out. The fuel element was travelling along, tilted and caught the fuel removal machine, jamming the process. The machine was not derailed and neither was the fuel rod trapped or bent.

"The rod was not damaged and a few days later it was chopped up ready for reprocessing.

"There was appropriate managerial supervision at all times."

The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate was informed but the incident was not serious enough to be reported publicly as any event with radiological implications.