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4 OUT OF 10 FOR SAFETY; Sellafield bosses blasted over nuclear con.

NUCLEAR bosses were given four out of 10 for safety yesterday after a report into faked records.

Yesterday's damning verdict came after 31 consignments of nuclear fuel pellets exported from Sellafield to Japan had their records falsified.

The Health and Safety Executive blamed the scandal on systematic management failure.

Nuclear chief inspector Laurence Williams said: "There are parts of Sellafield that are world class. However, there are other parts which aren't so good.

"They are probably in the four or five out of 10 range."

Energy minister Helen Liddell has now given new British Nuclear Fuels chairman Hugh Collum two months to carry out a "root and branch""review of the company.

She said: "No one should be out of bounds.""

BNFL bosses could face calls to resign and be taken to court if they fail to meet the deadline. And it was also announced last night that BNFL is to face prosecution over other claimed safety breaches.

Allegations centre on an incident in March last year when concentrated nitric acid was released at BNFL's Sellafield plant, injuring two employees.

Sellafield, in Cumbria, makes nuclear fuel from a mixture of uranium and plutonium.

Safety inspectors discovered that instead of checks being carried out, workers faked quality assurance records. There was no safety hazard because of automated back-up checks.

Boredom, heavy workloads and huge job cuts were blamed.

Five shop floor workers were sacked. But Mr Williams said management must also bear responsibility.

He said: "There can be no excuse for workers not following procedures to avoid a tedious task.

"They need to be identified, and the company needs to take the appropriate disciplinary action. The management has allowed this to happen.

"They must understand they are accountable for safety."

Some of the plant's facilities have been closed down and will not be allowed to restart until recommendations have been carried out.

The HSE is demanding that management is improved and operators replaced or retrained.

BNFL says it is already putting 15 recommendations into effect.

A spokesman said: "Safety remains our top priority. There was no complacency about what needs to be done."

The incident for which BNFL is being prosecuted involved about seven cubic metres of concentrated nitric acid being released.

It allegedly resulted in a building being evacuated.

Two workers suffered slight acid burns and a fireman inhaled fumes. The case will be heard at Whitehaven 'court in April.
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Author:Shaw, Adrian
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 19, 2000
Words:400
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