FURY AS NUCLEAR CORE CHECKS ARE 'SKIPPED'
Western Daily Press, 1 January 2008
Outraged campaigners have hit out at proposals to delay maintenance at a blighted South Gloucestershire power station.
Members of the Shut Oldbury Campaign are furious an inspection shut-down date scheduled for November will now take place after the reactor's permanent closure at the end of 2008.
The number two reactor at the ageing power station, near Thornbury, was shut down two years ago because of government concerns about erosion in its graphite core, but bosses switched it back on again in May of this year
The plant was forced to close again 10 days later when there was a small fire in a non-nuclear area of the station.
The reactor was switched back on again in July then turned off again almost immediately when a vibration was discovered in one of the power-generating turbines.
But the 39-year-old nuclear station is now back on line before its final decommissioning at the end of 2008, with the loss of 500 jobs.
Under a schedule of maintenance, the reactor should be turned off again for checks at the end of January.
But because of the short time it has currently been in use an application had been made to postpone certain aspects of maintenance so it can continue operating until its final closure.
Shut Oldbury spokesman Jim Duffy is concerned about a request by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which owns the site, to delay safety inspections.
He said: "The industry has requested that the agreed inspection should be put off until after the reactor's permanent closure.
"A new letter from the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate to the Shut Oldbury Campaign states that 'in the light of the small operating period since the commencement of the last outage, the company has applied to the NII for permission to postpone certain aspects of maintenance to allow the reactor to continue operation to the end of December 2008.'
"A key aspect of the NII decision regarding deferment of the outage is the graphite core safety case."
Mr Duffy said the reactor would need to be shut down for a considerable time to gauge if cracks have developed in its core.
"The regulators said in June they couldn't licence the reactor till the end of 2008.
"For Oldbury to make this request is completely outrageous and could have unthinkable consequences especially as they haven't fitted the extra safety system we have called for.
"Shutting it finally now is the only safe option."
The station's number one reactor has been out of service since August 2006 awaiting similar test results and approval by the NII to restart.
Director, Joe Lamonby, said: "Reactor 2 has undergone extensive TV camera inspection of its graphite core involving examination of approximately 15,000 graphite bricks.
"These inspections confirm that the core is in good condition.
"All maintenance work necessary to operate the reactor has been completed and we would not seek to run the reactor if we did not believe it was safe to do so."