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LONDON (Reuters) - A British court fined the Sellafield nuclear waste site 700,000 pounds on Friday for the illegal dumping of radioactive material, the latest controversy to assail an industry that will have a toxic legacy lasting thousands of years.
Britain's Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) said Carlisle Crown Court had imposed the fine on Sellafield Limited for sending several bags of radioactive waste to a general landfill site in Cumbria, rather than to a specialist facility as required by law.
"While this incident did not lead to any significant harm being caused to the public or to the environment, the failings by Sellafield Ltd that led to the incident were serious," said Ian Parker of the Environment Agency, which carried out the investigation with the ONR.
"We consider that on this occasion, Sellafield Limited fell well short of the high standards which we expect from them," he added.
Since 2008 the Sellafield Nuclear reprocessing plant in north-western England has been operated by Nuclear Management Partners, a consortium of French nuclear technology company Areva, UK engineering firm AMEC and U.S. construction firm URS.
Earlier this year local politicians in Cumbria vetoed plans to advance a 12 billion pound underground nuclear waste storage site.
Britain will need to build new storage to deal with waste from current reactors and new units, material that will remain hazardous far into the future.
The government says replacement nuclear power stations are needed to cut carbon emissions and reduce dependence on imported energy.
But Britain has yet to strike a deal with power companies such as EDF Energy on the minimum price they will get to cover the multibillion pound costs of constructing new reactors.
Reporting By John McGarrity; editing by Ron Askew