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Saturday, 28 February 2015

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'Lax and complacent' Sellafield Ltd loses appeal against £700,000 fine

The owner of the Sellafield nuclear plant has failed in an appeal against a £700,000 fine for sending low-level radioactive waste to landfill.

Sellafield site photo

Condemning Sellafield Limited, the nation's top judge said there had been a 'lax and complacent custom' within the company when it came to separating safe from nuclear-tainted waste.

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, said the company's senior management had to bear a share of the responsibility for that and the fine was in no way excessive.

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

The company admitted seven offences, 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.

The company had urged Lord Thomas to cut the fine, claiming it was 'manifestly excessive'. The lapses had, it claimed, caused no harm to anyone and those who handled the bags had been exposed to no higher radiation than a passenger would experience on a flight to Paris.

But the judge, sitting at the Court of Appeal in London, said: "The failure was easily avoidable and could and should have been detected very quickly; there was the clearest negligence.

"Judge Hughes found that there had been a custom in the company, Sellafield Limited, which was too lax and complacent; that senior management must bear a share of the responsibility. "We can see no basis for criticising that finding".

And Lord Thomas, sitting with Mr Justice Mitting and Mrs Justice Thirlwall, warned Sellafield that, if the fine did not have the desired effect, it could expect tougher penalties for any future breaches.


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