Love it or loathe it, power station must be safe

Thornbury Gazette, Editorial, September 1st 2006

THE AFFABLE and confidence-inspiring manager of Oldbury nuclear power station assured a public meeting last month that all was well at the atomic pile (or should that be heap?) down on the banks of the Severn.

Nuclear safety watchdogs, he indicated, seemed happy with the condition of a suspect 1960's reactor and were on the brink of giving it the all-clear.

We were told that the 38-year-old reactor (described by anti-nuclear lobbyists as "about as sound as a clapped out Morris Minor") would very shortly be resuming normal service, heating the water that makes the steam that drives the turbines that generate the power that boils our kettles.

That was getting on for a month ago and the dear old thing hasn't been cranked into life yet. There has, it seems, been a degree of "slippage".

To those not in the know, this would suggest the inspectors aren't quite as impressed with the arguments for allowing the jalopy back on the road, so to speak, as power station bosses thought.

This analogy - comparing the station to an old banger in for its MoT test - is all very well. But it does have its limitations.

If the brakes fail on an old banger, the consequences could be pretty horrible. If the graphite core fails on a Magnox reactor the outcome could be, nay, would be, cataclysmic.

Whatever our individual views on nuclear power, it's comforting to know that the men and women who test the hardware have set the bar pretty high.

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