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'Managing Risk Reduction at Sellafield' - UK report catalogues failures

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The declared policy of the Isle of Man Government is 'to seek the complete closure of Sellafield and to oppose the operation of any nuclear facility which is the source of radioactive pollution and in particular the nuclear fuel reprocessing plants at Sellafield'. In the UK the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is charged with decommissioning and clean up of redundant civil nuclear sites, and so is key to realisation of Government policy.

Recognising that operational and decommissioning activities at Sellafield cannot be halted immediately due to technical impossibilities, the Isle of Man Government for some years has given qualified support to the UK Government's nuclear decommissioning programme and the activities of the NDA, while requiring that radioactive emissions must comply with international regulatory requirements and therefore have no radiological impact on the Isle of Man.

Noting publication of the UK National Audit Office report on progress over the past four years by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in respect of Sellafield, entitled 'Managing Risk Reduction at Sellafield', Phil Gawne MHK, Minister for the Environment, Food and Agriculture, said:

'Although focused on the financial aspects of the Sellafield decommissioning process, the recent report of the UK's National Audit Office into the activities of the NDA draws attention to operational and legacy matters including those affecting safety, and in so doing effectively highlights and reinforces some of the reasons for our opposition. Whilst noting that none of the safety issues are new, I welcome publication of the report and the fact that it has refocussed the UK public spotlight on Sellafield, which can only serve to improve matters associated with the site.

'It is clear that the NDA is failing to meet targets both on cost and timescales and the National Audit Office's report gives us very little reassurance that future targets are likely to be met. At a time when the UK Government is cutting hard its expenditure I have particular concern that the spiralling costs of decommissioning at Sellafield will not be met. I have written to the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change seeking reassurances on this important safety matter.

'On behalf of the Isle of Man Government, officers of my Department maintain a 'watching brief' on Sellafield's operations, including having direct contact with officials at the Sellafield site and with the NDA, the latter organisation formally recognising the Isle of Man Government as a stakeholder. That dialogue always includes any matters of safety concern identified by any party, regardless of whether highlighted by the National Audit Office.

'The Department provides input to relevant UK consultations, aiming to influence decisions to minimise any risk to the Isle of Man.  Most recently this has centred on proposals for underground 'geological disposal' of nuclear waste, in respect of which Tynwald resolved that it is opposed to underground (geological) disposal of nuclear waste in West Cumbria, until and unless Tynwald is convinced that an underground repository is safe, and presents no identifiable danger to the Isle of Man population, environment or economy.'

The nuclear industry in the UK is obliged by law to monitor both atmospheric emissions and liquid discharges which include those into the Irish Sea from Sellafield, which is supplemented by separate monitoring carried out by the UK regulatory authorities themselves (the Environment Agency and the Food Standards Agency).  Meanwhile the Department conducts its own independent monitoring of environmental radioactivity levels on the Isle of Man, the results of which are made available in the form of an annual report issued by our Government Laboratory.

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