08 June 2006

Nuclear leak sparks criminal case


The leak occurred at the Thorp complex at Sellafield

The operator of Cumbria's Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant is facing a criminal prosecution over a leak of radioactive material.

Acid containing 20 tonnes uranium and 160kg (353lb) of plutonium spilled from a ruptured pipe into a sealed cell at the site's Thorp complex.

The spillage, discovered in April 2005, may have happened eight months earlier.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) case faces a preliminary hearing at Whitehaven Magistrates' Court.

The HSE alleges operator British Nuclear Group Sellafield Ltd (BNGSL) breached conditions attached to the Sellafield site licence, which was granted under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965.

It says the company failed to ensure that safety systems were in good working order and that radioactive material was effectively contained.

No-one was hurt and no radioactive material escaped into the atmosphere, as a result of the spillage.

Work at the Thorp complex was halted when the leak was discovered.

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