Western Daily Press, BY JACQUELINE DOLAN, 13 July 2007

Oldbury nuclear power station, which was closed in May after a fire in an electricity transformer, is losing £1 million per week, it has been revealed.

The 39-year-old nuclear power station, in South Gloucestershire , was forced to shut down on May 30 after a fire broke out in a non-nuclear part of the plant.

People reported hearing the explosion and seeing smoke from the nearby village of Oldbury .

A number of inquiries have come to the conclusion that the fire occurred when moisture became mixed with oil within the transformer's insulation.

The power station had only been reopened for a few days when it was forced to close again because of problems with the plant's turbine.

An internal inquiry has been set up to look into vibration problems in the aging unit's turbine, but plant experts say they do not know when it will restart generating electricity for the National Grid.

A spokesperson told the Western Daily Press on Wednesday that the delay is costing Oldbury £1 million for every week it is not in operation.

Saranne Postans said: "The time we are not generating, it's costing £1 million per week.

"The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority want us to get back and running, but they want us to do it in a safe way."

Nuclear engineers are working hard to get the plant up and running again to start generating money, after a loss of at least £7 million to date since the plant was forced to shut.

Campaigner Jim Duffy, from the Shut Oldbury Campaign, fears the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which owns the site, will push Oldbury to rush the repair work.

He said: "Why are they pushing this? Reactor one shut down in May 2005 for safety reasons. Reactor two shut down in August 2006. It is the most corroded reactor in the UK and possibly in the whole world.

"The owners, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, are skint, so they are pushing Oldbury to squeeze every ounce of electricity out of the plant and are pushing to get it going again, to pay for the expensive decommissioning process.

"If you had an old car and the brakes were corroded, a garage wouldn't give the driver an MOT without fixing the brakes."

The station, which employs 500 staff, is due to be closed for good at the end of next year, and the number two reactor had only just been restarted before the fire, after it was taken out of production two years ago.

Oldbury power station chiefs say no radioactive material escaped from the plant and that no one was injured during the fire.

They insist the incident does not raise questions over the site's nuclear safety because it occurred away from the reactor.

Plant manager Pete Harper insists Oldbury has a excellent safety record and the power station will not start operating again until it is perfectly safe.

He said: "For 39 years this site has been here and our safety record is impeccable, there have been no major events and all the safety systems are monitored perfectly.

"After the fire the transformer was replaced with a new one within 30 days and there were not even any first aid issues.

"Our safety record is second to none. We wouldn't run this reactor if it wasn't safe to do so."

The Oldbury station is to close down for good next December and decommissioning will include the removal of all contaminated material.

Over a two-year period the fuel will be transferred into flasks and taken to Sellafield, in Cumbria , for reprocessing.

Eventually all that will be left on site will be the reactor building and a new store for radioactive waste.

It will be 80 years before the site is cleared of all remains of the power station and is safe from radioactive material to be redeveloped.




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