FRESH FEARS OVER AGEING REACTOR
Western Daily Press, 18 June 2007, Front page
Vital safety equipment that would automatically shut down an ageing nuclear reactor in the event of a fire was not being applied, experts have warned.
Oldbury nuclear power station, built nearly 40 years ago, should have a safety system that closes down its reactor if fire broke out.
Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, also show one of the reactors at the country's oldest nuclear power station is apparently unsafe to operate for a further 18 months. That is despite watchdog the Nuclear Installation Inspectorate giving it the all-clear to do so.
Oldbury's Reactor 2 was shut down in May 2005 because regulators were concerned corrosion to the reactor core had made the structure dangerously weak. It was started up in the middle of last month but after just 10 days, an explosion in the reactor's generator caused it to be shut down with an emergency stop procedure.
Western Daily Press, 18 June 2007
Oldbury nuclear power station is failing to apply a vital safety system, experts are warning. The 39-year-old nuclear power station, in South Gloucestershire , should have a safety system that shuts down the ageing reactor in case of fire.
Revelations in documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, also show one of the reactors at the country's oldest nuclear power station is unsafe to operate for a further 18 months but has been given the go-ahead to do so by the nuclear watchdog the Nuclear Installation Inspectorate(NII).
Reactor 2 was shut down in May 2005 because regulators were concerned that corrosion to the reactor core had made the structure dangerously weak.
It was started up in the middle of last month but after just 10 days, an explosion in the reactor's generator caused the reactor to be shut down with an emergency stop, the trip system.
The documents show the NII allowed its faulty Reactor 2 to start up even though it had not been fitted with a failed fuel trip system - a secondary emergency stop.
This secondary failed fuel trip system is seen as important with old reactors such as Oldbury as it would automatically shut down the reactor if a fire broke out and the initial trip failed.
The investigation into the safety of Reactor 2 at the power station, revealed a one-in-1,000 risk of a fire in the highly radioactive nuclear fuel.
But alarmed experts and local activists have branded this ridiculous.
NUCLEAR expert John Large said: "The risk of a fire shouldn't be 1 in 1,000, it should be 1 in 100,000.
"These findings from the NII are very worrying and to say that they are prepared to take a risk in a small period of six months is a rather silly argument. It's barmy. If it's not safe in 18 months to run then it is not safe enough to run now. It is totally unacceptable" he added.
Mr Large, who has 20 years experience with the Government's Atomic Energy Authority, said: "This is an old power station reactor and we cannot take the chance with safety systems."
The documents state that Reactor 2 is not safe enough to operate for the next 18 months, but the NII has allowed it to go onstream until November anyway.
Last month, an unrelated fire broke out in a non-nuclear part of the plant, and the power station had to be shut down indefinitely.
Experts are worried that the trip shut down may have caused extra damage through stress to the already heavily corroded reactor core making a future accident more likely.
Jim Duffy spokesman for the Shut Oldbury campaign said: "The documents reveal on one hand that Oldbury is essentially finished, as required safety work is impossible, but on the other hand that the regulators have astonishingly relaxed their stance to let it splutter on for a few more weeks' worth of electricity.
"There is a serious question here as to whether the regulators have allowed an economic argument to slip into what should be a pure safety case.
"We will be asking for more detailed data on how on earth restarting Oldbury was considered acceptable, but now the public are evidently at a greater risk as the operators and regulators have relaxed what should be a more stringent safety case."
Mr Duffy added: "Oldbury is very similar to Chernobyl , they both are old-fashioned graphite power stations with no secondary containment, that means they don't have huge globes to stop the release of radiation into the atmosphere."
"Oldbury has been haunted in the past five years with emergency shutdowns which have put too much tension on the safety components. We cannot afford to relax safety margins."
COUNCILLOR Philip Booth, Stroud, said: "Oldbury's defective reactor core has been described as the most corroded reactor of its kind in the world. Greens and others have repeatedly warned the 39-year-old reactor should not have been restarted before the recent fire.
"It should certainly not be restarted now. The risks are not worth taking."