Exclusive, 18 December 2012
The Sellafield nuclear complex in Cumbria was involved in almost half of all the accidents transporting radioactive materials in 2011, the government’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has revealed.
In 18 of the 38 incidents recorded on an official database, the radioactive cargo was being moved to or from Sellafield. Shipments were made to nuclear sites in the UK and abroad.
ONR only agreed to name the sites involved in the accidents after it was challenged under freedom of information law. At first it insisted that they had to be kept secret, but then it relented and released a list of nuclear industry sites.
It only did so, however, in a way that meant that the sites couldn’t be matched to previously published accounts of individual accidents. And ONR refused to name the hospitals, universities and other agencies outside of the nuclear industry involved in accidents.
The government’s Health Protection Agency published a report in August on behalf of ONR giving limited accounts of 38 incidents transporting radioactive material in 2011 – eight more than in 2010. The locations, organisations and dates were all kept secret.
In response to a freedom of information request, ONR initially argued that revealing the organisations involved “would make them unwilling to provide information on a voluntary basis” in the future. But when asked to review its decision, it decided to release names of the nuclear industry sites in a randomised and undated list.
The list shows that 29 of the 38 transport accidents in 2011 were to or from nuclear industry sites. In addition to Sellafield, the Springfields nuclear fuel fabrication plant near Preston and nuclear power stations at Hinkley Point in Somerset, Hunterston in North Ayrshire and elsewhere are mentioned.
Few details are given, though it does say a “collision happened near Walsall” and that a van from the Dounreay nuclear plant on the north coast of Scotland “stopped near Dingwells” – presumably meant to be Dingwall in the Highlands. One accident occurred with a cargo sent from the nuclear bomb factory at Aldermaston in Berkshire to the Springfields plant.
The list as it was released by the Office for Nuclear Regulation can be downloaded here (57KB Word).