UK Nuclear Cleanup Site Charged with Cybersecurity Crimes

Critical Infrastructure Security

Probe Finds ‘Largest and Most Hazardous Nuclear Site’ Violated Security Laws

UK Nuclear Cleanup Site Faces Criminal Cybersecurity Charges
The Sellafield Nuclear Reprocessing Plant in the United Kingdom (Image: Getty Images)

Britain’s nuclear power watchdog announced plans to prosecute major waste processing site Sellafield for violating cybersecurity regulations. Sellafield, described as “the largest and most hazardous nuclear site” in Britain, violated the Nuclear Industries Security Regulations law according to the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The Office for Nuclear Regulation, after conducting an investigation, confirmed the violation.

“These charges relate to alleged IT security offences during a four-year period between 2019 and early 2023,” stated the independent nuclear regulator in a Thursday announcement about the prosecution.

“There is no suggestion that public safety has been compromised as a result of these issues,” the ONR clarified. “Given that some matters are now subject to legal proceedings, we are unable to comment further.”

The first court hearing is yet to be scheduled.

Sellafield, with around 12,000 staff and an annual budget of 2 million pounds ($2.5 billion), is primarily involved in processing and storing nuclear waste as well as decommissioning nuclear devices and infrastructure.

In previous news, it was reported that Richard Meal, Sellafield’s CISO for the past 10 years, plans to step down later this year. This came after a similar announcement by Mark Neate, the head of safety and security at Sellafield, who announced his departure in January.

The law that Sellafield allegedly violated requires individuals to appropriately protect classified information designated as ‘sensitive nuclear information’ in the interest of national security. The regulations are enforced by the ONR’s Civil Nuclear Security branch on behalf of the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

Sellafield, originally established in 1947 in a remote coastal location in northwest England, was commissioned by the British government to produce plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program. The site has since played a key role in designing and building the country’s first nuclear reactor, contributing to the power grid until 2003, and recycling uranium and plutonium.

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