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Isle of Man Government responds to Nuclear Authority’s plans for the future of Sellafield 22 November 2005

    The Department of Local Government and the Environment (the Environment Department) has responded on behalf of Isle of Man Government, to draft proposals for the future of Sellafield, and has addressed possible impacts on the Isle of Man’s environment and also on its broader economic interests, which depend on its clean and safe environment.

    Isle of Man Government’s response to the proposals of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) as set out in its draft strategy document, is largely supportive of the NDA’s broad objectives – which give top priority to safety and protection of the environment. However, there remain some unresolved issues, chiefly concerning Sellafield’s reprocessing plants and nuclear fuel manufacturing operations, which head a long list of concerns about which Isle of Man Government has requested additional information in its response to the ongoing consultation process.

    The concerns expressed by the Environment Department extend to such matters as: - the intended contractorisation of clean-up work at Sellafield, including the possibility of companies with no UK based experience being awarded contracts. - the consequences for site safety of pressure on contractors to make year-on- year cost savings. - the possible movement of large volumes of nuclear waste from Chapelcross and other reactor sites to Sellafield for ‘interim’ storage, which could in time become permanent storage. - the very challenging problems and dangers associated with the dismantling of the fire-damaged Windscale Pile 1 reactor. - the future of the Drigg nuclear waste storage site, the integrity of which could be undermined by coastal erosion due to long term climate change.

    The NDA is a new body, established with effect from April 2005, with responsibility for the clean-up of the UK’s 20 civil nuclear sites and for ensuring that this is done in a safe and environmentally responsible way. Isle of Man Government is particularly interested in the NDA’s plans for three West Cumbrian sites the most important of which is at Sellafield. However, there is also the smaller Windscale site and the nearby Drigg Low Level Waste disposal site, a further concern is the Chapelcross nuclear station on the Solway Firth. The NDA has published its draft plans for clean–up of all of these sites and has invited comments from all interested parties.

    Two senior NDA officials paid a visit to the Isle of Man earlier this month, at the invitation of the Environment Minister, John Rimington, MHK, to explain the thinking behind the NDA’s proposals which will span very many years work - in Sellafield’s case at least 75 years.

    Minister Rimington informed the NDA representatives of the Isle of Man Government’s long- standing concerns, in relation to both operational safety at Sellafield and the ongoing low level radioactive pollution of the Irish Sea. In addition, he expressed concerns over future increased shipments of nuclear cargo through the Irish Sea and the long term problems of nuclear waste disposal.

    The Minister said:

    “There are additional matters which do give cause for concern. For example, who will be awarded contracts for clean-up work at Sellafield and what will be the effect of setting targets for cost savings? We would require a high degree of reassurance from the NDA that the issues surrounding this “contractorisation” of the clean-up work at Sellafield have been well thought out. I can see no margin for error with many of these decommissioning projects. We just cannot contemplate unnecessary mistakes being made which, in the worst case, could result in a serious accident at Sellafield. I should also say that my Department has indicated it would welcome further consultation with the NDA on behalf of Isle of Man Government about the future of the Sellafield site and I have made this point. However, Isle of Man Government’s central policy, which is to seek the complete closure of Sellafield, remains unchanged and we shall continue to press that message home at every opportunity.”

    22nd November 2005

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