The NFLA report, prepared by the Massachusetts based Institute for Resource and Security Studies (IRSS) (2), predicts a 10% rise in volumes of volatile HAL through to 2005 on current waste generation and vitrification rates (3). UK Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, in its own report published last February (4) said it was 'unconvinced' that BNFL can clear the HAL backlog by an earlier jointly agreed deadline of 2015. The Inspectorate has given BNFL six months, to 18 August 2000, to come up with a plan to meet the deadline. If BNFL fail, the Inspectorate says 'we will use our powers to curtail or suspend THORP reprocessing'. IRSS estimate
immediate suspension of the THORP plant would enable the HAL backlog to be cleared by 2010.
Concern about safety of containment of HAL at Sellafield has prompted
IRSS identify 10 unresolved safety issues (5) and shows HAL storage to be in breach of two of the Nuclear Inspectorate's own 'safety assessment principles'. IRSS warn: 'More reprocessing will tend to lead to a higher level of hazard, with increases in both the probability and consequences of a potential HAL release.'
1. The 1992 OSPAR Convention requires the prevention and elimination of marine pollution in the North-East Atlantic region, including the Irish Sea. The OSPAR member states meet annually to adopt measures necessary to comply with the Convention. Member states, who include Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the
European Union, meet in Copenhagen between 26-30 June 2000.
2. High Level Radioactive Liquid Waste at Sellafield: An Updated Review Gordon Thompson, Institute for Resource and Security Studies, June 2000, 23pp, available free of charge from the Nuclear Free Local Authorities Secretariat.
3. Vitrification converts HAL to a more stable solid waste for storage. However, CORE Briefing, 8 March 2000, reports: '...The Vitrification Plant has significantly underperformed since its opening in 1991. The production rate of waste-filled canisters is below 50% of the production capacity and the plant has been subject to numerous technical problems, accidents and incidents involving worker contamination and evacuation since operations began...'
4. The Storage of Liquid High Level Waste at Sellafield Nuclear
Installations Inspectorate, February 2000, 90pp see:
5. Unresolved HAL storage safety issues identified by IRSS include:
(a) safety assessments by BNFL have failed to address important accident
phenomena, and have made claims about accident probability that are not
based on engineering analyses;
(b) devices for transferring liquid HLW from a defective tank will work
only over a narrow range of temperature;
(c) nominally separate cooling circuits for the HLW tanks are not truly
(d) remote inspection techniques must be developed to determine the
internal structural integrity of the HAL tanks and evaporators;
(e) B215, the HAL storage building, is being modified to increase
resistance to earthquakes, but BNFL has not performed a seismic
probabilistic safety assessment that meets prevailing standards;
(f) ventilation, control and instrumentation systems in the B215 facility
do not meet prevailing standards;
(g) BNFL has failed to perform an integrated safety assessment for linked
facilities, and therefore does not properly understand the potential for
inadvertent forwarding of organic chemicals from B205 (Magnox reprocessing
plant) or THORP to B215;
(h) investigations of the potential for violent chemical explosions in B215
(i) BNFL has not analysed the development of potential severe accidents in
B215 or the opportunities for mitigating such accidents; and
(j) it is unlikely that BNFL will succeed in emptying the HLW tanks by
2015, in part because of pipeline blockages in the vitrification plant
1. Inventory of radioactive waste disposals at sea IAEA-TECHDOC-115 August 1999
2. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity PJ Kershaw et. al. 44 (1999) pp191-221
3. The 1992 OSPAR Convention requires the prevention and elimination of marine pollution in the North-East Atlantic region, including the Irish Sea. The OSPAR member states meet annually to adopt measures necessary to comply with the Convention. Member states, who include Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the
European Union, next meet in Copenhagen between 26-30 June 2000.