Sellafield leak a damning indictment, says Minister

The recent leak at Sellafield is “another damning indictment” of the ageing nuclear power station, the Environment Minister said today.

The recent leak at Sellafield is “another damning indictment” of the ageing nuclear power station, the Environment Minister said today.

Dick Roche said he had been updated by the British Authorities over the mid-January leak from a pipe in the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (Thorp) at the UK power station.

Mr Roche welcomed the new information – which did not have implications for Ireland – but said he found the reports’ findings “deeply worrying”.

“The pattern with Sellafield is well established and consistent,” the Environment Minister said.

“A serious incident occurs, the investigation reveals serious safety failures and weaknesses, recommendations are drawn up and implemented, and further assurances given that the plant is safe.

“However, this pattern is untenable and the safety record at the plant has given the Irish Government serious cause for concern for some time.

“This latest information serves only to increase the concerns of the Government and to reinforce our efforts to secure the safe and orderly closure of Sellafield,” the minister said.

The investigation by British Nuclear Group found the pipe may have begun to fail as early as August 2004 and that opportunities were missed between January 2005 and April 19, which would have shown material was leaking.

The secondary containment cell ensured there was no release of radioactivity to the environment and the leak could not have been prevented, but the amount of liquid released could have been reduced, the report found.

“What is clear is firstly the crack should never have occurred, and secondly if it did occur and when it occurred, no matter how small or big it was, it should have been immediately detected,” Mr Roche said.

“To say this went on for five months, and possibly from last August, does nothing to give us any confidence and re-emphasises our determination to press ahead with the legal actions we have in place.”

The minister said he had written to seek an early meeting over the Thorp incident with the UK Environment Secretary and the Trade and Industry Secretary.

Mr Roche has also raised the issue with the European Commissioner for Energy, and said the European Commission’s suggestion it was going step down the level of inspections of nuclear plants in Europe was “a very bad decision”.

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