A leak at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing facility on Cumbrian coast, England

Monday, May 9, 2005

At the Sellafield reprocessing plant, a leak in the process was spotted on April 19. The leak did not cause danger to people or the environment but it disturbed the normal operation of the plant.

Workers at the plant noticed a discrepancy in the amount of material being reprocessed that enters pipes that lead to a set of centrifuges and the amount of material actually arriving at the centrifuges. They used remote cameras to find the crack where the material was escaping; over twenty tonnes have leaked into a steel lined chamber.

The material, consisting of mostly uranium and some plutonium dissolved in nitric acid, would have been reprocessed in the centrifuges. The large stainless steel chamber that now contains the spilled material is too dangerous to enter due to radioactivity, though it poses no danger to those inside or outside the plant.

The plant has been shut down pending repairs.

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