Torness broke radioactive waste rules

THE operator of Torness nuclear power station in East Lothian has been reprimanded by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency for breaking rules concerning the handling of radioactive waste.

It has been claimed that 28 oil drums containing 26 litres of radioactive residue were wrongly sent for recycling at a low-level waste repository plant in Cumbria, in breach of strict rules concerning the handling of the materials.

The French operator of the Torness plant, EDF Energy, has been warned that further breaches could result in prosecution. When the blunder was discovered in April, the waste had to be sent back to Torness, where it is still awaiting disposal.

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EDF stressed the levels of radioactivity involved were very low, but accepted some oil drums had not been sufficiently checked.

A spokesperson said: “Although, as the report by SEPA makes clear, there was no actual environmental impact, we treat any potential issue very seriously. Our open reporting culture is evident in the way we have communicated with our regulator, even on events such as this where the radiological impact of drinking a litre of this oil would be equivalent to consuming a bag of brazil nuts.

“A small number of the oil drums had not been checked sufficiently so as to identify a small volume of oil sludge at the bottom. We have examined our waste consignment practices and put in place additional checks to avoid similar issues arising in the future. We returned the oil residue to Torness power station where it is currently stored awaiting disposal through the well established and approved processes used throughout our industry for disposing of this sort of waste.

“EDF Energy takes its responsibilities for safe and clean operation of our facilities very seriously and strives through open reporting practices to continue to engender the trust of the nation.”