Published Friday, 31 January 2014
The Sellafield plant in Cumbria. (© PA)
The SDLP's Margaret Ritchie has tabled parliamentary questions at Westminister on Friday regarding environmental concerns on both sides of the Irish Sea.
It comes as alarms were triggered by increased radiation at a perimeter fence - although it is understood that no abnormal radiation readings were found within the plant itself.
"As a result of a conservative and prudent decision, the Sellafield site is operating normally but with reduced manning levels today," a statement from the plant operators said.
"This follows the detection of elevated levels of radioactivity at one of the on-site radiation monitors at the north end of the site. Essential workers only are being asked to report for work.
"Levels of radioactivity detected are above naturally occurring radiation, but well below that which would call for any actions to be taken by the workforce on or off the site."
However, Ms Ritchie has expressed concern over the situation.
I am more convinced than ever that this site must be closed in its entirety.
Margaret Ritchie, SDLP
"The latest breach in safety at Sellafield clearly highlights the need for the decommissioning process at the plant to be accelerated," she said.
"The level of decommissioning which has taken place at the site by the government appointed body - the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority - is some 12 years behind schedule, and this latest safety scare is a time when the nuclear authorities have failed to undertake a proper clean up at the plant, and are still pressing for further new build facilities on the site."
The South Down MP added: "Levels of radioactivity are above naturally occurring rates which needs to be urgently tackled. The nuclear authority also assert that they are below levels deemed necessary for action to be taken by the workforce on the site.
"Considering the ongoing indiscriminate discharges of radioactive waste into the Irish Sea over many years, the nuclear authorities need to be more vigilant in their approach to this matter - rather than displaying such a cavalier manner to safety at the plant."
But Prospect, 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.
"The company's decision to partially close some areas at the site is a precautionary and measured decision and a safety measure that is recognised worldwide," national officer Gill Wood said.
Sellafield Ltd also insists there is "no risk to the public and no evidence of a nuclear event".
© UTV News