Shut Oldbury Press Release

New Oldbury incident triggers demand for closure

12 July 2007

Oldbury nuclear power station was forced to shut down due to vibrations in a turbine linked to the reactor, the second recent event causing the reactor to be 'tripped', triggering repeated demands to permanently shut the power station and questions about its augmented role funding the decommissioning authority.

The event in reactor 2 occurred on July 3rd, just three days after going on line after a month's switch-off. An explosive fire had occurred in a generator-transformer on 30 th May, the sound of which was heard in Oldbury village with accompanying smoke or steam spouting from the reactor buildings.

British Nuclear Group, operating the reactor for its owners the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, played down the significance of the earlier event, declaring the generator fire as separate to the nuclear reactor. But the reactor depends on the turbines and generators to dissipate its heat and reactor overheating would be a consequence to not tripping the reactor immediately. But there are concerns that the machinery has not been regularly maintained during its very long 'outage'. Turbines and generators need to be kept spinning occasionally to prevent 'gluing up'.

Shut Oldbury campaigners are concerned about the incidents in a short time span and see them as further signs that the reactor is worn out and a safety risk and being operated under pressure form its cash-strapped owners.

Reactor 2 had been shut down for two years due to concerns about its corroded reactor core which has incurred weight loss of over a third in its most afflicted graphite bricks. Reactor 1 is still also shut down since its closure eleven months ago for the same reasons.

The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) has said in recently released internal reports that it would be unsafe to operate reactor 1 till its final closure date of December 2008. But to the consternation of campaigners, allowed it to run till November this year before more inspections are required.

Reports for Reactor 1 have been submitted to the NII but will require a lengthy investigation which may not be achieved during the relatively short timescale before the plant shuts. (1)

Oldbury owners, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) are under great pressure to earn cash from running the plant. The NDA's main income stream from the THORP reprocessing plant in Sellafield has dried up for two years due to a leak of highly radioactive nuclear liquid. Its only other income is from Wylfa nuclear power station on Anglesey whilst it funds all the nuclear decommissioning projects of old reactors in the UK . Fifty scientists this week were made redundant at defunct Winfrith research reactors in Dorset due to cut-backs. Hinkley A decommissioning is under funded by £3 million this year. So the pressure to crank up Oldbury's corroded reactors is obvious.

A newspaper report in June suggested 400 staff would lose their jobs when Oldbury shuts finally. But evidence from other reactors shows the contrary. Trawsfynydd nuclear power station in Snowdonia shut 15 years ago but still supports three hundred jobs. Similar numbers apply to Berkeley in Gloucestershire. Nuclear trade unions are reported to be relaxed about small numbers of redundancies in a workforce which is already heavily weighted towards retirement age.

Jim Duffy, spokesman for the Shut Oldbury campaign said: "A bankrupt industry which has run out of cash to dismantle its defunct reactors is trying dangerously hard to squeeze any electricity out of this corroded and possibly neglected reactor. These incidents are a warning to all involved to press for Oldbury to shut once and for all."

Jim Duffy, Shut Oldbury, Stop Hinkley, 07968 974805

(1) Mike Weightman, Chief Inspector of the NII spoke at the Nuclear Safety Advisory Committee in London on 5th July, saying Oldbury reactor 1 safety case had been put to the NII but that it would require a longer investigation than reactor 2 (which has taken two years).

 

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