'Naturally occurring' radiation to blame for Sellafield radiation spike

Naturally occurring radiation was to blame for higher-than-normal readings detected at the Sellafield nuclear plant in Britain today.

Workers were told to stay away this morning while the company carried out an investigation. Staff are now returning to work this afternoon.

The monitoring system picked up “elevated” levels of radioactivity overnight, leading to workers and contractors being told to stay away.

But following an analysis by safety staff, Sellafield said the levels were “naturally occurring background radon”.

The company is still trying to establish exactly why the alarm was sounded even though it has now established the cause.

“Our in-air monitors are extremely sensitive and pick up on any abnormality," the company said in a statement.

“The number one priority for us is, at all times, safe secure stewardship of the Sellafield site, which is the most complex and challenging nuclear site in Europe.

“As such we act in a safety conscious manner, and take cautious, conservative decisions, such as the one taken overnight to ask non-safety essential staff to stay at home this morning, rather than come to the site.

“All of our plants and storage facilities were quickly confirmed as operating normally, and we were always confident that the issue posed no risk to the workforce or public because the levels being detected, whilst above background radiation levels, were still low.

“This view was reinforced by the fact that none of our other installed monitors were picking up any kind of increased levels. However, we take such issues so seriously that we investigated fully to confirm that everything was okay.

The Prospect union, which represents 5,000 nuclear specialists at Sellafield, said the elevated radiation readings were within acceptable limits and were not a danger to human health or to the plant.

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