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Sellafield fined £700,000 after incorrect disposal of radioactive waste

"A failure in leadership and management resulted in the uncontrolled transport and disposal of low-level waste in the public domain.

Sellafield Limited has today (14/6/2013) been fined £700,000 and ordered to pay £72,635.34 in costs at Carlisle Crown Court for sending several bags of radioactive waste to a landfill site in Cumbria.

The bags should have been sent to a specialist facility that treats and stores low level radioactive waste.

Carlisle Crown Court heard that a number of significant management and operational failings at Sellafield Limited led to the incorrect disposal of the waste at the Lillyhall landfill site in Workington. This breached the conditions of Sellafield's environmental permit and the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations.

Sellafield found the error was caused by the wrong configuration of a new monitor which passed the bags as ‘general' waste making them exempt from strict disposal controls.

Joint investigation

The Environment Agency and ONR carried out a thorough investigation and have taken action to minimise the chances of this type of incident happening again, including working together to ensure Sellafield makes further improvements to its leadership and management systems, the shortcomings of which were highlighted in this event.

The bags were retrieved from the landfill and returned to Sellafield for correct disposal. Extensive reassurance monitoring was carried out by a number of organisations, including the Environment Agency, Waste Recycling Group Limited (operators of the landfill at the time) and Sellafield Limited, which confirmed that there was no contamination left at the site or on the landfill equipment and no harm was caused to the environment or the public.

In summing up, the judge hearing the case recognised that the mistakes that were made indicated basic management failures and in this type of industry, it shouldn't be the case that lessons were learnt after the event.
Protect people and environment

Ian Parker, Nuclear Regulation Manager for the Environment Agency, said:
"Our overriding aim in regulating the nuclear industry is to protect people and the environment from the release of radioactive wastes into the environment.

"While this incident did not lead to any significant harm being caused to the public or to the environment, the failings by Sellafield Ltd that led to the incident were serious and we consider that on this occasion, Sellafield Limited fell well short of the high standards which we expect from them.

"For us, the most important thing is that Sellafield Ltd has learnt the lessons from this and put improvements in place to minimise the chances of this type of incident happening again."
Ian Barlow from the Office for Nuclear Regulation, said:
"We require the nuclear industry to control its hazards and ensure it has effective procedures in place for transporting and disposing of all forms of radioactive material, including waste. That hasn't happened here: a failure in leadership and management resulted in the uncontrolled transport and disposal of low-level waste in the public domain.

"Our decision to prosecute [and the £700,000 fine imposed in court today] shows that this will not be tolerated.

"Where it is necessary to do so, ONR will not hesitate to take enforcement action to ensure the protection of people and society from the hazards of the nuclear industry."
Charges
  • 1. SELLAFIELD LIMITED on or about the 12th day of April 2010, operated a regulated facility involving the disposal of non exempt radioactive waste at Waste Group Recycling Limited's landfill site at Lillyhall Cumbria outside the extent authorised by an environmental permit, contrary to Regulations 12(1)(a) and 38(1)(a) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.


  • 2. SELLAFIELD LIMITED between 1st day of November 2009 and the 5th day of April 2010, being a person to whom an authorisation, namely BX9838 was granted under section 13 of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 did not comply with a limitation or condition of that authorisation, namely Schedule 1 condition 4(b) of the said authorisation, in that it failed to check at an appropriate frequency, the effectiveness of systems, equipment and procedures provided for the disposal of radioactive waste, contrary to Section 32(1)(c) of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993.


  • 3. SELLAFIELD LIMITED between 6th day of April 2010 and the 19th day of April 2010, failed to comply with or contravened an environmental permit condition, namely Schedule 1 condition 4(b) of environmental permit BX9838, in that it failed to check at an appropriate frequency, the effectiveness of systems, equipment and procedures provided for the disposal of radioactive waste, contrary to Regulation 38(2) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010


  • 4.SELLAFIELD LIMITED between 15th day of November 2008 and the 5th day of April 2010, being a person to whom an authorisation, namely BX9838 was granted under section 13 of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 did not comply with a limitation or condition of that authorisation, namely Schedule 1 condition 6(a) of the said authorisation, in that it failed to have a management system, organisational structure and resources in place which were sufficient to achieve compliance with the limitations and conditions of the said authorisation, contrary to Section 32(1)(c) of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993


  • 5.SELLAFIELD LIMITED between 6th day of April 2010 and the 19th day of April 2010,
    failed to comply with or contravened an environmental permit condition, namely Schedule 1 condition 6(a) of environmental permit BX9838, in that it failed to have a management system, organisational structure and resources in place which were sufficient to achieve compliance with the limitations and conditions of the said permit, contrary to Regulation 38(2) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010.


  • 6.SELLAFIELD LIMITED between 5th day of March 2009 and the 5th day of April 2010, being a person to whom an authorisation, namely BX9838 was granted under section 13 of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 did not comply with a limitation or condition of that authorisation, namely Schedule 1 condition 12(a) of the said authorisation, in that it failed to have and comply with appropriate criteria for the acceptance into service of systems, equipment and procedures for carrying out any monitoring and measurements necessary to determine compliance with the limitations and conditions of this authorisation, contrary to Section 32(1)(c) of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993.


  • 7. SELLAFIELD LIMITED on and before the 12 April 2010 breached Regulation 5 of the Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations 2009 in that it caused or permitted dangerous goods, namely non exempt radioactive waste, to be carried where that carriage did not comply with applicable requirements of ADR (The European agreement governing the international carriage of dangerous goods by road), whereby it committed an offence contrary to section 33(1)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (‘the Act') and is liable to a penalty pursuant to section 33(2) and Schedule 3A to the Act (as amended by section 1 of the Health and Safety (Offences) Act 2008).