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Uranium Plant, Capenhurst

Volume 979: debated on Monday 25 February 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Energy if Urenco is satisfied with the security arrangements as Capenhurst; and whether non-British nationals have been or are now employed at the plant.

The UKAEA is designated, under the Treaty of Almelo, as the agency responsible for the implementation of security procedures at the civil uranium enrichment plant at Capenhurst, which is owned by Urenco (UK). I am satisfied, on the basis of advice from the UKAEA, with the security arrangements there.I have been assured that apart from secondments of West German and Dutch nationals employed by the partner enterprises and holding appropriate security clearances, only UK nationals are and have been employed on confidential certrifuge work there.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy (1) if the general public around Capenhurst have been told what to do in the event of an emergency; and, if so, if he will publish that advice;(2) if he will describe the safety measures at Capenhurst in the event of a leak; and, in particular, the plans to evacuate the population living in the immediate vicinity; the contingency plans for the workers; if Urenco has reported that it is satisfied with the local relief agencies' plans for such an emergency; if there have been any dummy runs; and, if so, how often are these staged.

At Capenhurst, as at other major sites licensed under the Nuclear Installations Act 1965, plans to deal with any accident or emergency on the site have been drawn up, and approved by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). These plans are required to be rehearsed by site personnel each year under the observation of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate. The nature of the response to any incident depends upon the safety significance of the incident concerned.Operators of licensed nuclear installations are in addition required to ensure that plans to deal with the unlikely event of an Emergency having implications beyond the boundary of the site are also agreed with the appropriate local authorities and emergency services. Descriptions of emergency plans are lodged at public libraries in the areas which might be affected.The licensed site at Capenhurst is operated solely by British Nuclear Fuels Limited. The question of emergency arrangements is one in which the operator has a direct responsibility to the HSE.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will report on the recent leak of gas at Capenhurst; whether there was an inquiry on the accident; what was the nature of the inquiry and by whom it was conducted; whether the inquiry was reported; and, if so, whether he will publish a copy of the report.

On 6 December 1979 British Nuclear Fuels Limited—BNFL—reported to my right hon. Friend that a release of uranium hexafluoride gas had occurred from a test rig at its Capenhurst plant that morning. The leakage, which resulted from a fractured pipeline, was quickly isolated and air- borne contamination, which was detected in the immediate vicinity of the building concerned, quickly fell to a low level There was no significant radiological or chemical effect to personnel on the site as a result of the release. The general public was not affected.I understand that BNFL has held an internal inquiry into the cause of the release, as a result of which certain recommendations have been made for action to minimise the possibility of a recurrence of the incident.It is not intended to publish the report of this inquiry, but the incident will be reported in the Health and Safety Executive's fourth "Quarterly Statement on Nuclear Incidents" for 1979, which is to be published shortly.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is the capacity of the Capenhurst plant; and what is the present output.

Excluding a small pilot plant, the Capenhurst gas centrifuge enrichment plant currently has an output and capacity of about 200 tonnes separative work per year.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what defence arrangements operate to protect Capenhurst from a possible attack from the ground and from the air.

Strict security arrangements apply at Capenhurst and these include procedures for responding to an attack on the site. It would not be in the public interest to reveal details of these.