The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) found that while there were proper records of nuclear waste accumulated at the Decommissioning Operating Unit there, records of waste disposed of from the unit were deficient.
Sellafield, the closest nuclear facility to Ireland, has long been a cause of concern to environmentalists here.
The inspector described the handling of the records as a “significant shortfall” that made it difficult for Sellafield to demonstrate that “vital records are being managed appropriately for these high hazard facilities”.
“It became apparent to me that there is no quality assurance check or peer review when data is entered into Sellafield Limited’s waste tracking database.
“Consequently, it was my opinion that there is potential for the information in the waste tracking database to be incorrect. This database is used to make decisions on waste routing so this shortfall is significant and is one which may occur in other operating units because the same database is used across the Sellafield site.”
The ONR has begun enforcement action to make Sellafield address the failings, saying the “lack of robustness” must be swiftly addressed. But Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) said the breaches showed Sellafield still presented hazards.
The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, which has since merged with the Environmental Protection Agency, concluded in 2013 that the UK’s nuclear plants presented only a very low risk to Ireland.
But Tony Lowes of FIE said it was important that Ireland remain vigilant. “You can never eliminate human error no matter what you do. That’s the greatest danger,” he said. “People are beginning to accept climate change and the need to reduce the use of fossil fuels so they begin to feel we have no choice but to use nuclear power, but of course we have choices and this kind of issue at Sellafield shows why nuclear is not the best choice.”