BY JEFF WELLS, Western Daily Press, 31 May 2007

A blaze broke out at an ageing nuclear power station yesterday, just days after it was given permission to start up again amid safety fears.

A generator burst into flames at the plant in Oldbury, near Bristol , which restarted producing electricity only on Sunday. It had been shut down for the past two years because of government inspectors' concerns about corrosion of the graphite core.

Angry campaigners branded the decision announced less than two weeks ago by nuclear safety watchdogs to allow the reactor to be switched on again as "Russian roulette".

O ldbury power station chiefs say no radioactive material escaped from the plant and that no one was injured. They insist the incident does not raise questions over the site's nuclear safety because it occurred away from the reactor.

A spokeswoman said: "There was a small fire at 9.40am in some conventional plant, that is, non-nuclear. So, it is an engineering issue rather than a nuclear issue and has nothing to do with the reactor or the graphite core. There was no release of radioactivity and it was not a nuclear incident.

"The reactor was shut down manually from the control room in accordance with standard procedures. There were people working around the area of the fire but not near enough to be injured in any way.

"The fire was extinguished within a few minutes by the automatic fire suppression system."

She said there was a bang loud enough to be heard by people living nearby.

The spokeswoman added: "Avon Fire and Rescue Service was called as a precaution and left quite soon after arriving. There was minor damage but that is still being assessed."

She said the reactor was expected to be restarted within weeks.

Jim Duffy, spokesman for the anti-nuclear Shut Oldbury Campaign, said the fire proved that people's lives were at risk.

He said: "It was Russian roulette to have restarted this reactor. Oldbury says it is not a nuclear issue but it is because they had to shut down the reactor very quickly to ensure it loses heat. A very quick shutdown very probably causes further problems to the reactor.

"The reason the fire happened is because the reactor has been shut down for two years. Part of the maintenance should have been to make sure the turbines and generators were kept moving and spinning throughout that period of time.

"We are concerned that it has not been properly maintained."


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