SAFETY FEARS AFTER BLAZE AT N-PLANT

Bristol Evening Post, 31 May 2007

A Fire at a nuclear power station just days after it restarted generating electricity has led to renewed calls for it to be shut down for good. A generator burst into flames at the Oldbury plant in South Gloucestershire yesterday morning.

The fire took place in a building separate from the plant's operating nuclear reactor, which was shut down as a precaution.

But campaigners claim it raises questions over safety issues.

Oldbury 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.

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

"Our fire team was called but the fire was out before it arrived."

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

One of the two reactors on the site began producing electricity again three days before the fire, on Sunday.

It had been shut down for the past two years because of Government inspectors' concerns of corrosion of the graphite core.

Angry campaigners have attacked nuclear safety watchdog's decision to allow the reactor to be switched on.

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.

"There has been a complete failure of the safety case to restart the reactor here, because a fire should not start in any part of a nuclear power station.

"If the failure has occurred in conventional plant, it could also apply to the nuclear side.

"Without a doubt, Oldbury must stay shut because the lives of people over a very wide area are at risk."

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