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Friday, 19 September 2014

Sellafield appeals over £700,000 fine

THE owners of Sellafield have launched an appeal against a £700,000 fine it was hit with for sending low-level radioactive waste to landfill.

Sellafield Limited was handed the fine, plus costs of £72,000, at Carlisle Crown Court in June following a prosecution by the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive.

The company admitted seven health and safety breaches, relating to four bags of plastic and metal waste from its plant which were sent to Lillyhall landfill site, in Workington, when they should have been sent to the Low Level Waste Repository, at Drigg.

Urging top judges to reduce the fine, lawyers acting for Sellafield Ltd argued it was 'excessive' as the risk posed was very low.

Richard Matthews QC, for the company, told London's Appeal Court that the low level of radioactive material in the bags meant they were not harmful to anybody handling them.

He added: "Sellafield would say, and say with some confidence, that when a bag is generating 2,000 microsieverts, it is perfectly acceptable to be handled - it is within the tolerance of the risk assessments.

"That level does not result in the uptake of radioactive material into the body."

He said that, while disposal staff would have been wearing protective clothing and meters designed to measure radiation, there were 'no additional precautions needed' for them to handle the material.

Mr Matthews added that a 'great many measures' had been put in place by the company following the prosecution.

He also stressed that a huge proportion of the firm's annual income is the £1.6bn of state funding it receives - which is for 'clean-up and dealing with nuclear legacy' and does not contribute towards the annual profit of £31million.

The Lord Chief Justice, Sir John Thomas, sitting with Mr Justice Mitting and Mrs Justice Thirlwall, reserved giving judgment on the company's appeal until an unspecified later date.

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