QUESTIONS have been asked over whether a staff shortage at Sellafield nuclear power plant is affecting safety at the site.

The issue was raised at this month's meeting of the west Cumbria sites stakeholder group at Cleator Moor Civic Hall.

Neil Crewdson, Sellafield's site director, was presenting a progress report on various developments at the site where he highlighted recruitment issues and a difficulty in attracting staff.

But he outlined a number of ways in which they are hoping to tackle the situation and turn things around.

He said there used to be 200 vacancies a year and it had risen to 900. He added: "Post Covid we had a step change in people leaving. With salaries we are trying to make sure they are more competitive."

Councillor Sam Pollen (Egremont, Labour), from Cumberland Council, asked: "You don't have enough people to do what you do.

"How does a shortage of personnel affect safety?"

Mr Crewdson said it was expected that around two per cent of the workforce would leave [per year], which equates to 200 people, but added: "We've taken on 914 apprentice graduates and trainees."

He said they in addition they hoped to fix the situation with the recent pay deal which was more competitive and aimed at attracting more staff to the west Cumbrian nuclear facility.

He added: "We can't move at the pace we would like to be."

Bob Jones said that the issue was significant and asked whether links had been established with local educational establishments to help with recruitment of apprentices?

Mr Crewdson said there was a link with West Cumbria College as well as with a college in Barrow-in-Furness. He added: "We are also looking at bringing some of our training in-house."

He said this was expected to take around 12 months to put in place and there was not a quick fix solution with recruitment issues.

Committee chairman councillor David Moore (Gosforth, Conservative) pointed out that by moving training to Lillyhall it had made it difficult to travel there from Seascale. He added: "People can't get to these training courses."

Mr Crewdson said: "We do need to look at the accessibility of this."