Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant
The Sellafield nuclear complex is situated on the coast of Cumbria in northwest Britain. Originally named Windscale with the purpose of producing plutonium for the British nuclear weapons program, it then became a commercial operation with reprocessing facilities, fuel fabrication and other installations, operated by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL). In April 2005 ownership switched to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, but, at least for the time being, BNFL still operates the site as a contractor.
Sellafield has a very bad safety record with hundreds of more or less severe accidents involving the release of radioactive substances into the environment and the irradiation of workers and equipment. As a result, some 60 percent of the buildings have to be classed as nuclear waste.
The Sellafield site has the highest concentration of radioactivity on the planet. An accident involving the liquid high level waste tanks would have catastrophic consequences and make the area uninhabitable for a long time.
The reprocessing plants discharge some eight million litres of nuclear waste into the sea each day. The radioactivity contaminates seawater, sediments and marine life such as winkles and lobsters. The Irish Sea is the most radioactively contaminated sea in the world.
In the vicinity of the complex, groundwater, estuaries and soil are contaminated. Compared to the British average, there has been a ten-fold increase of childhood leukaemia around Sellafield. Plutonium dust has been found in the houses of residents living along the Irish Sea coast.
Before the NDA took over, British Nuclear Fuels Ltd became notorious for mismanagement, cover-ups and lies. They have exceeded discharge limits, ignored safety regulations and falsified data on numerous occasions.