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Monday, 01 September 2014

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Sellafield disaster ‘worse than Chernobyl’ averted - claim

Cumbria narrowly averted a nuclear disaster “five times worse than Chernobyl”, a county councillor has claimed.

Wendy Kolbe photo
Wendy Kolbe

Labour’s Wendy Kolbe, who represents Ulverston East, told councillors that a failure in the cooling system at Sellafield on April 1 could have led to a catastrophic explosion.

Her comments have been dismissed as alarmist and untrue.

She said: “For four hours radioactive storage tanks lost cooling water.

“If that had continued for eight hours it would have created a major disaster not only for Cumbria but for Europe.

“We could have been looking at devastation to our county. Something five times worse than Chernobyl.”

Ms Kolbe argued that £1bn needs to be spent to replace tanks used to store radioactive waste from all over the country, which is stockpiled at Sellafield.

She said: “People shouldn’t be blinkered as to what is happening and to the amount of funding that has to be put in place to ensure the safety of Cumbria’s residents.”

Tim Knowles, the cabinet member responsible, said a review of the emergency planning for nuclear incidents had started, partly in response to the events of April 1.

But he added: “Officers’ and regulators’ advice in relation to that particular incident didn’t have quite the same alarmist emphasis.”

A Sellafield spokesman said: “Supplies of cooling water to the Highly Active Liquor Evaporation and Storage plant at Sellafield were disrupted for a short period during the afternoon of Wednesday, April 1.

“Cooling water to priority storage tanks containing liquor was restored within two hours, to other tanks containing liquor within four hours, and to empty tanks within eight hours.

“Investigations to confirm the cause of the incident are under way. There was no release of activity and no-one was injured.

“We already have a comprehensive Sellafield Emergency Plan, written by Cumbria County Council in conjunction with expert emergency planners from Sellafield, and we hold regular emergency training exercises, again in conjunction with the council and observed and monitored by our regulators.

“We will, as always, welcome the opportunity of working with Cumbria County Council to review our emergency planning procedures.”

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