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The BBC's Tim Hirsch
"Bosses were literally in the dock"
 real 28k

Thursday, 6 April, 2000, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Nuclear plant bosses admit safety breach
Sellafield
Sellafield's future hangs in the balance
British Nuclear Fuels has admitted breaching safety regulations after three of its workers were injured in an acid leak at its troubled Sellafield reprocessing plant.

The men sustained burns when seven cubic metres of highly corrosive concentrated nitric acid escaped from a valve in March last year.

British Nuclear Fuels plc and BNFL Engineering Limited pleaded guilty at Whitehaven Magistrates' Court, Cumbria, to failing to ensure the safety of workers during commissioning and maintenance work in the Low Active Effluent Management Group Plant.

Engineer Ray Hodge, fitter Andy Carnall and a site fireman received treatment after the leak.

Internal inquiry

BNFL Plc and BNFL Engineering Limited have since carried out an internal inquiry into the incident.

Andrew Carr, defending both companies, said a guilty plea had been given at the earliest possible time and that BNFL acknowledged the spill was a serious incident.

Speaking outside the court, a company spokesman said: "Safety is our first priority and we regret that such an event occurred.

"However no one was seriously injured, and the emergency response and the safety systems we had in place prevented any acid escaping to the environment.

"We have already acted to ensure that similar events cannot happen in the future."

The case follows a series of controversies which have called the future of the Cumbrian plant into question.

Falsified safety records

In February a damning report into Sellafield said safety records had been systematically falsified.

The 40-page study by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) painted an alarming picture of management incompetence and a culture of complacency.

Further revelations that a worker at the site apparently sabotaged sensitive machinery have done little to improve the plant's image.

Last month, an international campaign was launched to shut down Sellafield on environmental grounds.

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28 Feb 00 | UK
Nuclear chief quits
06 Oct 99 | The Company File
Nuclear workers sacked for fake checks
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