Power station to switch on

By Jeff Weaver, Thornbury Gazette, 24th May 2007

OLDBURY nuclear power station has been given the go ahead to resume generating electricity.

Safety watchdogs have given a clean bill of health to the station's number two reactor which has been shut down for almost two years for safety checks on its ageing graphite core.

The station's number one reactor was also taken out of service for similar inspections last August since when Oldbury has been completely non productive at a cost of more than £2million a week in lost power generation.

The announcement that reactor two is at last fit for duty has been greeted with dismay by anti nuclear campaigners who have warned of safety risks in bring the plant back into use.

"We are appalled by the safety risks involved in restarting the corroded reactor," said Shut Oldbury spokesman Jim Duffy. "We are fearful that the back-up safety systems are inadequate.

"This must be the most corroded reactor of its kind in the world, now that two Russian reactors with similar graphite corrosion have shut down. An accident is now much more likely, the shut-down systems are questionable and a release of radiation could be on the cards. This is an outrageous money-saving plan and it should be halted now."

Stroud District Green party spokesman Philip Booth said the risks were "too grave".

"An independent nuclear engineer has said that the corrosion could lead to a catastrophic nuclear-fuel fire and release of radiation," he said. "Why on earth take the risk? This is putting profit before safety."

Oldbury site manager Joe Lamonby said the reactor would be back to full output within a month at the latest.

"We are now raising the control rods and starting to make heat," he said. "It's likely that after a two year shut down there will be some recommissioning issue in areas such as steam pipes. It will a careful process which won't be rushed but we have no safety concerns."

He said the all-clear from the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate put claims regarding the condition of the reactor's graphite core into perspective.

"We were able to put forward a very robust safety case which has now been accepted after an enormously comprehensive assessment," said Mr Lamonby. "A massive amount of camera inspections have been carried out and a huge number of samples tested.

"It has been subject to more inspection than any other reactor, anywhere.

"We would not be restarting it - and the Regulator would not have given consent - if there was not total confidence of its safety."

The all clear was the culmination of many months of hard work by Oldbury staff and contractors, he said.

Oldbury power station is due to shut down for good and begin decommissioning in December next year when it will be more than 40 years old.

Plans for the future of the site are currently out for public consultation and copies of the station's Environmental Statement document are available for inspection at local libraries including Thornbury.


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