Shut Oldbury Press Release

Fears of Oldbury restart

17 May 2007

Campaigners fear that a reactor that has been shut for two years through safety concerns is about to be fired up again this month.

Shut Oldbury campaigners are appalled at the safety risks involved in restarting the corroded reactor and are fearful that the back-up safety systems are inadequate.

Reactor 2 at Oldbury nuclear power station was shut down in May 2005 due to severe corrosion of the graphite reactor core. In its worst affected bricks, which contain the suspended fuel elements, the weight loss was found to be more than a third. Manchester University research showed that at 35% weight loss, the reactor bricks could only support twelve percent of the weight they were designed to support.

A small misalignment in just one of the thousands of bricks could create localised overheating in the nuclear fuel, trap fuel elements and render the safety control rods useless. A 'boron beads' back-up safety system is laborious to apply and requires the boron to drop a long way into the reactor with associated uncertainties to its effectiveness. A nuclear fire could develop with unthinkable consequences.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority who own the plant have recently commissioned British Energy to sell Oldbury's electricity despite both reactors being shut down. Other sources point to the imminent restart of the ageing reactor. Reactor 1 has been shut since August last year for identical problems.

The NDA has run into financial difficulties since a huge leak of nuclear waste occurred at its THORP reprocessing plant in Cumbria , which has also been shut for safety reasons for two years. Decommissioning projects have been hit by funding uncertainty and Oldbury's shut down, much earlier than its scheduled 2008 closure, has exacerbated the NDA's problems.

Jim Duffy, spokesman for the Shut Oldbury campaign, said: "This must be the most corroded reactor of its kind in the world, now that two Russian reactors with similar graphite corrosion have shut down. An accident is now much more likely, the shut-down systems are questionable and a release of radiation could be on the cards. This outrageous money-saving plan should be halted now."

Jim Duffy, 07968 974805

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