SELLAFIELD'S permits to control disposal of radioactive waste have been significantly changed for the first time in almost 20 years.

The west Cumbrian nuclear plant submitted an application to review its Radioactive Substances Activities (RSA) permit in 2018.

The Environment Agency has carried out a major review, which included public consultations, and approved changes.

Dr Rob Allot, Sellafield Nuclear Regulation Team Leader said: “The Environment Agency has been working with Sellafield Ltd for some time to carry out a major review of this environmental permit in readiness for the end of fuel reprocessing at the Sellafield site.

"The public engagement via the consultations have been a really important part of this process and today signifies a major milestone as we issue the permit variation.

"The Sellafield site has historically reprocessed radioactive fuel in its THORP and Magnox reprocessing plants. However, fuel reprocessing came to an end at THORP in November 2018 and Magnox reprocessing is planned to end in 2020.

"This will mean that the site will see a significant reduction in radioactive discharges to the environment. Given these forecast reductions, the company needs this new RSA environmental permit to better reflect the new, lower discharge levels.

"Following the end of fuel reprocessing, Sellafield Ltd's mission will focus on decommissioning and the safe and secure environmental remediation of the Sellafield Site. The permit review has enabled us to build more flexibility into the permits to allow for post operational clean out and clean-up of the high hazard legacy facilities to reduce the risk to people and the environment.”

The main changes to the permit include:

• Reducing site discharge limits and introducing a two-tier (upper and lower) site discharge limit structure.

• Removing some site discharge limits where discharges have fallen below significant levels and they do not meet the Environment Agency criteria for setting limits.

• Replacing plant discharge limits with plant notification levels so that Sellafield Ltd can make most effective use of the available discharge routes and treatment plants.