Bristol Evening Post, 1 September 2006

Safety regulators have yet to give permission for Oldbury nuclear power station to return to full power because it is unsafe, campaigners have claimed. A report in the Nuclear Safety Newsletter says tests on Reactor Two at the ageing station were continuing as planned but they had yet to give final approval for it to be restarted.

It said: "Much of the supporting information is now in place, but some key materials testing data is still to be obtained to demonstrate that the graphite retains sufficient strength to perform its safety function during the proposed period of operation.

"The company continues to investigate the feasibility of alternative avenues for demonstrating the safety operations at higher graphite weight loss. The inspectorate is being kept informed of progress but no detailed safety proposals have yet been prepared."

Jim Duffy, spokesman for the Shut Oldbury campaign, said the delays were because of safety concerns. He said: "Built 38 years ago, Oldbury suffers the worst weight loss of any reactor core in the UK, which could lead to a catastrophic nuclear-fuel fire and release of radiation, according to comments made last year by an independent nuclear engineer.

"Reactor Two was shut down last June for an expected two-month 'outage' but has still not been restarted as the graphite corrosion was found to be extreme at 34.5 per cent in the worst affected areas. Reactor One was restarted last June after a twelve month outage but has now reached the same corrosion level as Reactor Two and will also shut in early September meaning no power will then be produced at the station.

"Despite the industry sinking so much money into propping up these old reactors and the collosal time spent in outages they still cannot prove they are safe to operate.

"Oldbury's bosses should give up now for safety's sake and announce its permanent closure."

He also claimed that £2 billion * has been spent on research into the safety of Oldbury, a claim which plant operator British Nuclear Group (BNG) denied.

BNG spokesman Tim Jones dismissed the safety concerns.

He said: "The situation at Oldbury is that Reactor One continues to operate normally. It is due to come off-line soon for a statutory outage. During that outage additional inspections will be carried out on its graphite core as agreed with the regulator, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII).

"Once we are satisfied we can make a robust safety case will we seek permission from the NII to re-start Reactor One.

"Reactor Two is shut down on an extended outage. During that time we have carried out detailed visual inspections in the reactor core using state of the art remotely controlled camera technology.

"We have fully inspected more than 1,300 graphite channels in the heart of the reactor and found nothing of any significance.

"Extensive tests have also been carried out on graphite samples taken from the core and we are currently assessing the results of those tests. Work on Reactor Two's safety case continues to go well and we look forward to being able to put a robust safety case to the NII for restart in the near future.

"Safety remains the number one priority at our sites."

The Magnox station is due to close in 2008.


* Correction: A press release concerning Oldbury nuclear power station sent on 30th August contained a mistake in the figure given for overall costs to the nuclear industry of tests and research on reactor core graphite. The figure given of £2 billion should have been £5 million .

This is arrived at by adding the individual costs of 41 research contracts between 2004 and this year: £2,713,202. From this cost the estimate of 42 similar research projects from 1999 to 2004 was extrapolated. Both added together would be £5.2 million, rounded down £5 million .

Source: Data received from the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate under the Freedom of Information Act.

My sincere apologies for this misunderstanding. Jim Duffy

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