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Environment Minister visits Sellafield to view progress on site decommissioning and improvements in Nuclear Waste Treatment 19 September 2007

Isle of Man Government Environment Minister, John Shimmin, MHK and his Departmental colleagues, Mrs Clare Christian MLC, Mr Dudley Butt MLC, and Mr Juan Watterson MHK , have just completed an extensive two-day visit to the Sellafield nuclear complex.

On their tour of the vast nuclear site, the delegation was able to see the progress being made with decommissioning of obsolete facilities such as the Magnox Swarf Storage Silos (which contain radioactive waste awaiting a disposal route since the early 1960s) and the four cooling towers of the Calder Hall nuclear power station which are being prepared for demolition on 29th September.

The visit included a tour of the THORP reprocessing plant which in recent years has been the source of low-level marine pollution. The itinerary also included the Waste Vitrification Plant, which converts Sellafield’s highly radioactive liquid waste into glass blocks, suitable for eventual underground disposal.

The Minister, who was making his first visit to Sellafield was welcomed upon his arrival by Barry Snelson, Managing Director of Sellafield Ltd which operates the facility on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). The Minister’s visit was at the invitation of the NDA’s Chairman and Chief Executive, who paid a visit to the Isle of Man in May 2007.

The Minister received assurances from the senior management of both ‘Sellafield Ltd’ and the NDA that safety would remain their top priority as they progressed site decommissioning and completion of Sellafield’s fuel reprocessing contracts. The Department, however, remains strongly opposed to further discharges of radioactive wastes into the Irish Sea and would prefer that all radioactive wastes could be retained on site, for either long-term storage or disposal.

The Isle of Man delegation also held separate talks with West Cumbrian politicians and community representatives to gain a better understanding of how the nuclear industry was viewed in West Cumbria, and to discuss the Isle of Man and West Cumbria’s common interests in the safety and security of Sellafield and the possibilities for developing commercial and tourist links with West Cumbria.

Commenting on his visit to Sellafield the Environment Minister said,

“I believe it was a very productive visit for myself and my Tynwald colleagues. There is certainly no substitute for seeing Sellafield from the inside, just to see the scale of the industrial facilities and the big problems that must be solved to dismantle them was invaluable. I was pleased to accept the offer to visit Sellafield and I was reassured to some extent by the level of commitment shown by the site operators in explaining their plans for cleaning up the site. However, it remains Isle of Man Government policy to seek the complete closure of Sellafield to ensure the protection of the Irish Sea from contamination.’

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