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Sellafield Limited has launched a test case in the London Appeal Court against a ruling which saw it fined £700,000 for breaching seven health and safety directives.

The firm, which owns Sellafield Nuclear Plant, was taken to court by the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency earlier this year. Pleading guilty, the company received the fine, and was ordered to pay more than £70,000 in costs after it sent radioactive waste to a landfill site.

The ruling, handed down in June at Carlisle Crown Court, centred on metal and plastic waste being sent from the plant to Lillyhall landfill site. The four bags were supposed to have been directed to a low-level radioactive waste repository, but were wrongly classified due to faulty equipment.

However, the firm is now arguing that the ruling was excessive. It says that the risk was low and the materials would not have posed any harm when handled.

Speaking about the appeal on behalf of Sellafield Limited, Richard Matthews QC said:

“Sellafield would say, and say with some confidence, that when a bag is generating 2,000 microsieverts, it is perfectly acceptable to be handled – it is within the tolerance of the risk assessments.”

He also said that disposal workers would’ve been using protective clothing (PPE) and had meters measuring the radiation levels. As such, the QC said, there was no need for any further precautions to be taken.

Three Justices will give their final judgement on the appeal. No date has yet been set for the ruling.

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