Office for Nuclear Regulation

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Oldbury Inspection of Fuel Route after Contamination found at Sellafield

Executive summary

Purpose of intervention

This inspection visit was made gather preliminary information on an incident notified to ONR (INF1 2014/229) by site following contamination being found at Sellafield associated with a transport flask that was sent from Oldbury.

Interventions Carried Out by ONR

ONR inspected the pond area, the route from the pond to the Flask dispatch area and the Berkeley rail head where the flask is loaded onto a train for its journey to Sellafield.

Explanation of Judgement if Safety System Not Judged to be Adequate

Not applicable.

Key Findings, Inspector's Opinions and Reasons for Judgements Made

The Oldbury documentation reviewed by the Radioactive Materials Transport (RMT) and site inspector for Flask E58 indicated that all the required contamination checks had been completed. Oldbury found minor errors in the paperwork but these were not connected to the flask checks. Based on the paperwork records, Oldbury and the ONR Inspectors could not see how debris on Flask E58 could have gone undetected. This raised the suspicion that the paperwork may not accurately reflect what actually happened with regard to Flask monitoring.

Owing to the relatively large amount of splitter debris at the bottom of the pond in the Flask loading area, Oldbury assumed that the contamination found at Sellafield originated at Oldbury. Given what we subsequently saw in the picture of the debris around the Flask loading area this seemed reasonable.

Oldbury asked Magnox Ltd to undertake an independent investigation of the incident. Oldbury also considered methods of improving management of flask contamination checks.

Conclusion of Intervention

It is likely, given the amount of debris where the flask is placed in the pond that the contamination found at Sellafield originated from Oldbury. However, if all the checks required by the procedures at Oldbury were done correctly, it is difficult to see how the debris was not spotted before the flask was loaded onto the transporter.

Recommendation

ONR should await the report of the licensee's investigation into the circumstances surrounding this event before considering any further regulatory action.