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Bomb squad destroys dangerous chemicals found at Sellafield

Sellafield. Credit: ITV Border

An army bomb squad has safely destroyed dangerous chemicals found at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site in Cumbria.

The hazardous substances were found in canisters, which were discovered during a routine audit of a laboratory on the site.

They are industrial solvents, such as Tetrahydrofuran, which are potentially flammable in liquid states and can crystallise and become unstable when exposed to air, and had been stored at Sellafield since 1992.

None of the chemicals are nuclear or radiological materials, a spokesperson for Sellafield Limited said.

He told ITV Border that the army carried out hundreds of similar explosions every year, but that they were exercising "extreme caution" because of the nature of Sellafield.

We're exercising extreme caution. It's nothing to do with radiological material, it's purely industrial safety, but we're exercising due care and caution. There's nothing untoward, no extra risk to the public or our workforce."

– Mark Neate, Director of Security and Resilience at Sellafield

After the discovery of the chemicals, which had been stored in the lab since 1992, protocols for handling hazardous chemicals meant the Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team were called at around 8pm on Friday night to assess the situation.

The Bomb Squad returned on Saturday to help dispose of the chemicals safely.

The first batch of chemicals was detonated at around 2:15pm this afternoon, and the second batch was destroyed at around 4pm.

A Sellafield spokesperson described the detonation process by saying the Army team would dig a trench, bury the canisters using sandbags, and detonate them in a controlled manner.

They warned that this would create a noise that would be audible off-site, but the Army said there was no cause for alarm.