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Sellafield faces prosecution after worker exposed to radiation at Cumbria site

Nuclear clean-up business Sellafield could face a massive fine as it faces prosecution after a worker received a huge dose of radiation in an accident at the Cumbria site.
The worker received up to three times the allowable annual exposure to radiation in the accident - which was rated serious enough to have to be reported to the Energy Minister - while doing what was described as “routine” work.
Sellafield Ltd - a company controlled by Government body the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority - is being prosecuted under health and safety laws. There is no maximum on the fine it could be hit with if found guilty.
A report into the incident last February by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) said that the worker - who is alive - was working on a filter that was part of a “glovebox”, which is a sealed container fitted with gloves to allow people to handle hazardous materials inside them.
Sellafield faces prosecution after worker exposed to radiation at Cumbria site

Sellafield was home to Britain's first civil nuclear reactor to supply the national grid

Credit:
AP
The filter was being emptied after it triggered an alarm. As the worker replaced a part a cable got tangled in the workings. As he removed the cable the worker “felt a sharp pain” in his left hand, according to the report.
Emergency responders were called and it was determined the worker had received a wound “with the potential for internal radiation exposure”.   
The worker was decontaminated and further samples were taken which confirmed he had received a radiation dose beyond the the annual safe limit of 20 millisieverts (mSv).
A dose of 100 mSv a year increases the risk of cancer, while 1,000 mSv is likely to cause a fatal cancer in 5pc of those exposed to it.
The Health and Safety Act states "it shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all its employees".
Nuclear safety authority the ONR’s initial report said the worker was not wearing additional protective equipment such as cut-resistant gloves as the task had been assessed not to need them, and the item which caused the wound should not have had sharp edges.
The ONR said on Friday that it has begun the prosecution, with the case beginning at Workington Magistrates Court.
Both Sellafield and the ONR declined to comment on the case for legal reasons.
Sellafield faces prosecution after worker exposed to radiation at Cumbria site

Workers use gloveboxes to handle hazardous materials at Sellafield

Credit:
PA
Sellafield employs about 13,000 staff and is responsible for reprocessing and decommissioning nuclear fuel, materials and waste as it cleans up the Cumbria site, which was home to the UK’s first civil nuclear power.
Previously called Windscale, the site’s Calder Hall reactors began generating electricity in the 1950s. A fire at one of its reactors in 1957 still ranks as Britain’s worst nuclear accident, with the three-day blaze spreading contamination across the UK and Europe.
Rated as a level 5 incident on the international nuclear event scale which runs from 1 to 7, the blaze led to an attempt to improve the site’s image by renaming it as Sellafield in the 1980s.
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