British Plutonium Missing
Blame placed on auditing discrepancy
February 17, 2005
The amount of material listed as missing at the Sellafield plant in Cumbria, north-west England was "within international standards of expected measurement accuracies for closing a nuclear material balance at the type of facility concerned," The UK Atomic Energy Authority said.
"There is no evidence to suggest that any of the apparent losses reported were real losses of nuclear material," the authority added.
The annual check of nuclear material at all of Britain's civil nuclear installations showed that 65.2 lbs of plutonium was unaccounted for in the last financial year at the Sellafield site.
The authority said in most cases, unaccounted material resulted from uncertainties in the measurement systems used to produce the basic data and did not indicate real gains or losses of nuclear material.
"The material unaccounted for figures for 2003/04 were all within international standards of expected measurement accuracies for closing a nuclear material balance at the type of facility concerned.
"There is no evidence to suggest that any of the apparent losses reported were real losses of nuclear material."
Sellafield, operated by the British Nuclear Group (BNG), reprocesses spent fuel, and employs more than 10,000 workers.
A BNG spokeswoman at Sellafield said: "This is material that is unaccounted for, and there is always a discrepancy between the physical inventory and the book inventory. There is no suggestion that any material has left the site."
She said the most likely reason for any shortfall was due to the complex measuring processes that were carried out.
"When you have got a complicated chemical procedure, quite often material remains in the plant," she said.
"We are extremely confident with the safety and security measures we have here at the site."
In 2003, the processing plant revealed that there was 42 lbs of plutonium which was material unaccounted for.