TWO controlled explosions have taken place at the Sellafield site following the discovery of old solvents which saw bomb disposal experts drafted in.

The chemicals, which Sellafield chiefs say are solvents widely used in many industries, had been stored on the site for the last 25 years.

They have been disposed of in two batches.

The first was transferred from the laboratory in which the canisters were found to another location on the sprawling site of the nuclear plant in west Cumbria.

They were 'successfully and safely detonated' by the army's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team at around 2.15pm.

The second batch was detonated just before 4pm in the same way.

Earlier today a director of Sellafield Ltd said the firm was "leaving nothing to chance" as experts continued to deal with the materials that had been stored since 1992.

A cordon, in place as a precaution since last night, has now been lifted.

A Sellafield statement confirmed it was 'not a radiological event'.

Mark Neate, security and resilience director, said earlier today that the chemicals are "used extensively in many industries".

Army bomb disposal experts were called in last night to deal with the incident.

The bomb squad were called upon, along with the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, to assist with the incident, which involved chemicals found during an inventory audit in a laboratory.

People were moved out of a number of buildings in a 100m zone around the laboratory as part of an operational alert.

It is understood that the incident centred around five bottles containing a number of non-nuclear chemicals. The materials, which would have been used in chemical processes in the past, have the potential to crystalise and become unstable if exposed to oxygen.

They have been stored since 1992.

Mr Neate, speaking on radio this morning, said: "Yesterday as we went through an audit process we identified potentially hazardous chemicals and as a result of our analysis of those chemicals in our industry we no longer require them.

"What we wanted to do was safely dispose of them.

"We are exercising extreme caution and leaving nothing to chance."
Sellafield Ltd has been liaising with 'appropriate experts' "in line with best practice and established procedures".

The rest of the Sellafield site is operational and the majority of staff who would be in this weekend are at work and working normally.

The statement added that the army's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team deals with hundreds of similar incidents every year in places such as schools and universities but because it is happening on the Sellafield site 'extreme caution is being taken'.

The bomb disposal team have been disposing of the chemicals by digging a trench, burying the canisters using sandbags, before detonating them "in a controlled manner".

Warnings had been given that it would create a noise that would be heard from outside the site, but Sellafield leaders said that there would be "no need for alarm".

In a statement last night, Sellafield Ltd said: "Following a chemical inventory audit in a laboratory, we took the decision to dispose of a number of chemicals which are no longer used in our operations and have been stored since 1992.

"In line with best practice and established procedures, we alerted the relevant partner agencies and sought advice on managing this material in accordance with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations.

"As is usual in these scenarios, a specialised unit was invited to attend the Sellafield site to assess the material and advise on its safe disposal.

It is understood an investigation will be carried out into the circumstances surrounding the incident.