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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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Sellafield starts inquiry after Japanese nuclear waste flasks contaminated

Sellafield has launched an investigation into how the surface of three nuclear waste containers shipped to Japan became contaminated with radioactive material.

The containers were part of a cargo of 76 canisters of vitrified high-level waste.

They were found to be contaminated when they were unloaded at the Rokkasho storage facility in northern Japan.

Sellafield says that, following subsequent checks, two containers turned out to be within Japanese radiation limits but one was above the threshold.

There was no sign of contamination when the canisters left Sellafield inside three sealed flasks.

A Sellafield spokesman said: “Initial inspections have been carried out on the first containers to be unloaded and the measured surface contamination results exceeded the acceptance criteria for storage in Japan. Further checks are being carried out while investigations into the cause take place in the UK and Japan.”

The shipment is the second consignment of highly-active waste returned from Sellafield to Japan.

It left Barrow docks in August on board the nuclear transport ship, Pacific Grebe, and arrived in Japan on September 15.

Anti-nuclear campaigners cite Japanese press reports that one of the containers had surface levels of beta and gamma radiation 50 times over the limit.

Martin Forwood, campaign co-ordinator for Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment, said: “This will be of significant concern to Japanese workers who have to handle this highly-toxic and dangerous material. The unknown source of this surface contamination makes a mockery of the industry’s claims that high-level waste shipments pose no risk.”

Around 1,000 canisters of high-level waste are due to be returned to Japan over the next 10 years.

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