A report in The Ecologist in late October appears to reveal a major threat to public safety from the state of upkeep of legacy waste storage ponds at the Sellafield nuclear plant.
The images, which were leaked to the magazine via a nuclear watchdog group, appear to show dilapidated storage ponds, some exposed to the elements, providing a playground for seagulls. They depict ponds commissioned around 1952 which were used until the 1970s as short-term storage for spent fuel waiting to be reprocessed to produce plutonium for military use.
The ponds have apparently lain derelict since 1974, when they were inundated with spent fuel during the miners’ strike, during the period of prime minister Edward Heath’s three-day week, according to nuclear safety expert John Large, speaking to The Ecologist.
A Sellafield spokesman said it would be decades before the ponds were cleaned up, owing to the fact that a lot of other work
has to be done before this can
proceed. The pictures appear to have been taken between 2006 and the present, and Sellafield Ltd stated that they were “dated” and “do not present an accurate reflection of work across the Sellafield plant today”, as quoted in The Guardian.
The Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has said the ponds do not meet the high engineerng standards of today’s facilities.