• February 21, 2011

The Celtic League has written to the United Kingdom Environment agency asking about the monitoring of storm water outfalls from the Sellafield nuclear plant. The move is prompted by earlier correspondence with the UK HSE Nuclear Safety Directorate:

“Chief Executive
The Environment Agency
Horizon House
Deanery Road


Dear Sir,

In February 2010 we wrote to the (HSE/NSD) Chief Inspector for Nuclear Installations, Mike Weightman asking about the monitoring of storm water outfalls at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant. A copy of the main text
of that correspondence is set out below:

“Ref: Cumbria flooding – November 2009

Can you advise what, if any, steps were taken to increase monitoring of storm-water outfalls from the Sellafield nuclear facility during the unprecedented rainfall in that area of Cumbria in November 2009?

Can you also advise what monitoring devices are fitted to storm-water outfalls from the site and how often these are checked?

Finally, does the Nuclear Directorate provide any specific information on, or gather data from, storm-water outfalls from Sellafield and other nuclear sites?”

After a further (inconclusive) series of correspondence during subsequent weeks the HSE/NSD eventually responded as set out below:

“Dear Mr Moffatt

Ref: Cumbria flooding — November 2009

Thank you for your letter dated 25 February 2010. I apologise that you felt my previous letter did not address the question asked. I hope the information below will give you a more informative response as to why it was advised, after consulting with the Environment Agency to contact them for a response.

Nuclear Directorate (ND) & Environment Agency (EA) have a Memorandum of Understanding (M0U) which is a signed high-level document that enables decisions to be made on which organisation takes primary and secondary responsibilities over particular nuclear issues. In the situation to which your questions relate, it was decided that EA has primary responsibility and ND has secondary responsibility. It is not that ND is evading your questions – it is rather that your questions relate more to EA’s ambit of activity and therefore EA are better placed to answer them.

As regards to ND’s role, your questions relate to storm drains. These are not monitored for radioactivity. Licencees’ Arrangements for Licence Compliance concentrate on the maintenance of containment integrity of nuclear plant and
facilities, together with the adequacy of monitoring/detection of any leak and escape from such containment. Arrangements centre on the detection of any leaks or escapes as close to containment barriers as possible. Furthermore monitoring storm drains would neither be effective nor practicable.

ND & EA are currently working closely together to ensure that the Sellafield site optimise their arrangements for leak and escape prevention, so that the risk of any significant leakage is minimised, so far as is reasonably practicable.

I hope this is sufficient in answering your query. However if you do require any further information please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

Dorothy Rimmer
Deputy ND FOIA Officer
Redgrave Court
L20 7HS”

The HSE/NSD indicates that any monitoring of storm water outfalls would fall within the area of responsibility of the Environment Agency and I would be grateful if you could advise if such work is undertaken by the Agency?

Ground pollution by nuclear contaminants is an unfortunately frequent occurrence at the Sellafield plant (indeed a further incident of this type has just occurred).

Also the plant given its geographic footprint must also be crossed by natural water courses which also provide an added risk of the release of contaminants from the plant. Such events are of course exacerbated by periods of exceptional weather and it would be useful therefore if the EA could advise if the risk is monitored?

Yours sincerely

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information

Cc Secretary of State for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs

Dr Mike Weightman Chiel Inspector Nuclear Installations HSE/NSD”

Related articles on Celtic News here:


J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League


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