On Monday 5th September the BBC broadcast an episode of Panorama which highlighted some of the safety concerns that are ongoing at Sellafield. Sean Morris from the Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) circulated the following media release in response (download copy here), alongside a paper giving a more in depth insight into the failings at Sellafield (download copy here)

Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) media release 6th September 2016

Sellafield: a nuclear site struggling to deal with the basics” - NFLA calls for regulator, Government and Parliamentary inquiry into whistleblower allegations

The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) calls today for the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), the Government and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee to investigate the shocking claims made by a high-level ‘whistleblower’ at the Sellafield site in last night’s BBC ‘Panorama’ documentary. (1) NFLA also publishes today an overview of the wider issues of Sellafield reprocessing provided by independent radiation consultant, Dr Ian Fairlie.

Amidst the serious allegations made in the documentary include:
- ‘Panorama’ found parts of the Sellafield site regularly have too few staff to operate them safely. During one quarter there was
19 times that such issues occurred. Meg Hillier MP, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee was shocked by the figures and said in the documentary:
“It is incredible. It defies belief actually that anything could be working at below safe staffing levels. There is no excuse.”
- Radioactive materials like uranium and plutonium have been stored in degrading plastic bottles in cupboards for a number of years. Only now are they beginning to be dealt with.
- The whistle-blower (a former senior manager at Sellafield) said his biggest fear was a fire in one of the nuclear waste silos or one of the reprocessing plants, saying:
“If there is a fire there it could generate a plume of radiological waste that will go across Western Europe.”
- Parts of the site are “dangerously run down” and officials from its former managing company Nuclear Management Partners raised concerns some sites could collapse over time, creating a potential environmental catastrophe and a dangerous radioactive release.
- The full cost of decommissioning Sellafield could be as high as
£162 billion and take over a century to undertake.

NFLA have consistently raised similar concerns over the past 20 years (2), and it is not particularly surprised with some of them. However, the comments made by the whistleblower and by former senior officials at Sellafield within the documentary emphasise the urgency of the problem, the decrepit nature of much of the facility and the intolerable risk it continues to pose to the public, not just in Cumbria but across the north of England, across the Irish Sea, and even the whole of Western Europe.

NFLA share the concerns of the local campaigning group CORE that, whilst many of the issues raised by ‘Panorama’ may relate to the ‘bad old days’, the blame still remains with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and their inability, despite billions of pounds of taxpayer money, to rectify what the documentary called even the most ‘basic mistakes’.

As CORE said: “Many of the failures are inexcusable – under-staffing as just one example – and the complacent and somewhat cavalier explanations offered to Panorama by Sellafield, NDA and ONR will have swayed few viewers and will do nothing to boost public confidence in the safety of the site.” (3)

NFLA praises the courage of the whistleblower and for the BBC to show such a programme, given their paucity of critical coverage on the nuclear industry in recent years. NFLA note there has been some recent improvements at the site, but these are still completely inadequate in comparison to the level of intolerable risk and the amount of hazards on site. Issues like staff shortage are particularly unacceptable given the huge £1 billion+ annual budget the facility receives. It really is time for more openness and transparency in the operation of the Sellafield site. Just last week the new Minister for Energy Baroness Neville-Rolfe praised the Sellafield site after visiting it. NFLA hopes she and other ministers have now watched the ‘Panorama’ documentary and instead of nice platitudes get down to putting the appropriate measures in place to ensure the NDA does its job properly.

NFLA will send to the Government the latest analysis on Sellafield by Dr Fairlie, which widens the concerns of the NFLA to the reprocessing facilities on the site. Dr Fairlie’s report concludes:
“Most of all, we should recognize that, over the past 60 years (UK) nuclear policies, in both weapons and energy, have poorly served the nation.” (4)

Sellafield lies at the heart of why NFLA remains concerned over the development of nuclear power and new reactors generating more nuclear waste. It is why the current Government review on Hinkley Point should lead to cancellation of the project. The Government should rather move to safer, clean energy alternatives like renewable energy. Furthermore, the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office should resume its close scrutiny of the Sellafield site and the Office for Nuclear Regulation should continue the ongoing tight regulation of the site, and explain how some of the serious allegations made in the documentary have been allowed to occur.

NFLA Chair Councillor Ernie Galsworthy said:
“The allegations made by this courageous former high level manager at Sellafield in the BBC ‘Panorama’ programme are serious, safety-critical and alarming to say the least. They show that, despite some limited improvements, there are huge problems in resolving the most dangerous nuclear facility in the world. I call on the Government to stop making nice platitudes about Sellafield and find out why these allegations made by the whistleblower are continuing to occur. The problems at Sellafield remains a key reason why the UK should not embrace new nuclear but rather concentrate its attention on resolving our nuclear legacy and moving towards safer renewable energy alternatives."

NFLA All Ireland Forum Co Chair Councillor Mark Dearey adds:
“The BBC Panorama documentary on Sellafield highlights yet again why this hazardous site some hundred miles from the Irish coastline remains of such alarm to Irish Councils. I call on Charlie Flanagan to immediately contact its UK counterpart and demand the issues raised by the Sellafield whistleblower are dealt with urgently. He should also ask the Irish Radiological Protection Institute to review its risk assessment of an incident at Sellafield. A fire in the reprocessing facilities could endanger much of Western Europe. That is why such facilities must be closed down and the priority become completely with the safe management and decommissioning of the entire Sellafield site.”

(1) BBC Panorama, 5
th September 2016 http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b07v80s4/panorama-sellafields-nuclear-safety-failings
(2) See, for example, a report by the NFLA SC Policy Advisor Pete Roche for Friends of the Earth Cumbria, ‘Towards a Safer Cumbria: How government, regulators and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority have neglected nuclear waste in Cumbria’, March 2013
(3) Provided to the NFLA Secretariat by CORE Cumbria and will be on its website shortly –
(4) NFLA Radioactive Waste Policy Briefing 65, ‘The Nonsense of Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing’ by Dr Ian Fairlie, 6
th September 2016, is attached with this media release and will be placed on the homepage of the NFLA website http://www.nuclearpolicy.info.

Report from the East Anglian Daily Times 17 June 2016:

Link to the original article is here

Traces of radioactive material have been found on a second Suffolk beach by scientists monitoring the area around Sizewell.

Two months ago Environment Agency officials revealed that a small amount of an particularly dangerous “unusual” radioactive isotope had been found at Aldeburgh, and now they have disclosed that very small traces of a different element has also been found at Southwold. In both cases officials have stressed that the discoveries were very small amounts and there are no safety or environmental concerns and no risk to members of the public.

Stuart Parr, from the Environment Agency, told the Sizewell Stakeholder Group (SSG), that Caesium – a metal used in medical applications, industrial gauges, and hydrology which is said to be mildly toxic – had been found at Southwold. He said: “It was a very small amount and could be to do with tide patterns.”

Investigations were taking place to find out the source though Caesium was not an unusual element to find. Mr Parr said operators of Sizewell A were carrying out an investigation into the Strontium-90, produced by nuclear fission, found at Aldeburgh beach, one of five beaches monitored in the area. This includes extra monitoring along the resort’s shoreline. He said:

“We are continuing to engage with the operator in this investigation...The extra sampling proposed is continuing as are the investigations outlined to the SSG last time.The results from the analysis of these additional samples are not yet available. It can take many weeks for Sr-90 to be analysed due to the complexity of the analytical technique, which needs to be done in a laboratory....A sample taken from Aldeburgh beach earlier in 2016 has been sent to two laboratories for comparison....Differences in working practices in different laboratories can cause subtle differences in analytical results which become important when working with such low concentrations of Sr-90 in these samples...Once all the data has been received and analysed a full report will be made by Sizewell A....It is important to note that these results are unusual, the levels of radioactivity detected are extremely low and do not represent a hazard to anyone using the beach.”

Many thanks to Jenny for organising the sale at Yoxford last Saturday, it was an excellent event with a very good result, today Michael will bank £ 596-53 whitch is the total from the sale, donations and cash in hand from sale of badges etc.

We are very grateful to all who helped on the day including friends and family and many thanks to those who donated so many items. It is an excellent boost to the coffers and to team work. It was a really good day.


Thank you to everyone who attended Pete wilkinsons Talk, “A Life of Environmental Campaigning- from early Greenpeace to Sizewell C" on 03/03/16

Pete did us proud on Thursday evening. Considering that it was the first time we have used this venue, the turn out was satisfactory.

 A special thanks goes to Jenny for organising it. We learned a lot about the venue and some good pointers on how to use it for another event.

We made a small profit and also received a £100 donation, and some new members, so in all a great success.