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Safety advice for residents

Urenco UK Limited is subject to the Radiation (Emergency Preparedness and Public Information) Regulations 2019 and the Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015.

As a local resident you will want to be aware of what living near to a nuclear licensed site means to you and your family. We have tried to anticipate some of the questions you may have about the Capenhurst site and the activities that are undertaken on the site. The Capenhurst site is licensed to Urenco UK Limited.

What happens on the Capenhurst site?

  • Operation of centrifuge enrichment plants which process radioactive material as part of the nuclear fuel cycle. The chemical which is processed is called uranium hexafluoride (commonly known as hex).
  • Decommissioning of redundant plant and the storage and management of uranium.
  • Under normal operating and transport conditions, there is no hazard to members of the public.
  • If there was an accident and hex escaped from its containment, it would react with the moisture in the air to form solid uranyl fluoride and hydrogen fluoride (HF) gas. The solid uranyl fluoride tends to deposit relatively close to the point of release. The HF gas can be carried by the wind and is therefore the main hazard to members of the public.
  • Inhalation of HF would cause irritation of the nose, throat and lungs with injury in the event of severe exposure. The toxicity is similar to that of chlorine. However, you can see and smell HF at concentrations well below those concentrations which can cause harm.
  • If you see or smell anything acidic during an emergency, report it by dialling 999.

What about radiation?

Hex and uranyl fluoride are radioactive, but the radiation emitted is at a very low level. It is the chemical properties of the HF which pose the greatest potential hazard to members of the public.

What is done to minimise the risks associated with the above hazards?

  • Plant on site is designed and operated to the highest safety standards and in such a way that it is extremely unlikely that hex could be accidentally released beyond the confines of the plant buildings. It should be noted that the possibility of an escape of sufficient material to create a hazard to the general public is extremely remote.
  • The Capenhurst site has been operating for more than 50 years and during this time there has never been an accident affecting members of the public.

What arrangements have been made to deal with a release?

An on-site emergency plan has been prepared by the company and approved by the Office for Nuclear Regulation. An off-site emergency plan has also been prepared by the Local Authority.

Guidance

If you hear the siren or if you smell unusually strong, irritating fumes you should remain calm and go indoors.

Stay indoors, close all doors and windows. If possible go upstairs. Switch off all heating systems, ventilation fans and air conditioning system to avoid drawing in outside air. Remain indoors until you are told by an official source that the danger has passed or your hear the all clear siren (a continuous tone).

Tune in to your local radio station and listen for annoucements telling you what to do.

Please try not to use telephones to keep lines clear for use by the emergency services.

Go in, stay in, tune in

If you have any questions please write to: Emergency Planning Manager, Urenco UK Limited, Capenhurst, Cheshire, CH1 6ER.

Additional information

Urenco ChemPlants is currently commissioning a new facility on the Urenco UK Limited site which will mean that the facility will become a top tier COMAH site.

Prior to operations starting, information about any hazards which require an off-site emergency plan will be made available to the public on the HSE website, compliant with the Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations 2015.

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