Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Nuclear waste in flood path?

NUCLEAR waste from a shut down nuclear power plant could be in the swirling flood waters in Gloucestershire. A BBC television reporter this evening hinted that, as well as halting power supplies from Castle Meads power station and Walham switching station to homes and the GCHQ base at Cheltenham, the floods could have affected a nuclear site, which he could not name.

Castle Meads has been restored and Walham could be working again, after a huge effort by Royal Navy teams and emergency services. The county had been facing a complete blackout, and there were plans for a mass evacuation, it was reported tonight. The army is distributing bottled water to 350,000 people in Gloucestershire - and it may have to last them two weeks.

Berkeley nuclear power station was the first commercial nuclear plant in Britain and is the first to be decommissioned. It also houses laboratories.

But though the reactors have been closed, there are still large amounts of untreated nuclear waste at the site. Questions were asked about plans to store the Intermediate Level Waste(ILW) and the need to maintain flood defences at a meeting of nuclear industry management and local councillors, in March.

A temporary waste store for the ILW was being set up.
People in Lydney (where there has been concern over the incidence of child cancers) had asked why waste could not be left in vaults until a national repository was built. But Berkeley director Mr.J.Crocker said the problem was that the vaults were below the water table.

"Dr.Hellen asked where the risk of flooding sits. Mr.Crocker replied that the vaults have flooded before and the risk remains of it happening again. Storing the waste in the proposed ILW store reduces these risks of flooding in future to a low level."

Questions were asked in parliament a few years ago about dangers at Berkeley from a different direction. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what physical protection measures exist at the Berkeley nuclear research laboratories in Gloucestershire against the accidental or deliberate crash of an aircraft onto the site; and whether these have been enhanced since 2002. [171649]
Mr. Timms: The UK's civil nuclear sites apply stringent security measures regulated by the Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS), the security regulator. The security regulator works closely with the Health and Safety Executive, the safety regulator, which provides advice on the safety implications of events, including external hazards such as plane crashes, at nuclear installations. Security at nuclear sites is kept under regular review in the light of the prevailing threat and has been significantly enhanced since the terrorist attacks in the USA on 11 September 2001. It is Government policy not to disclose details of these measures which could potentially be of use to terrorists

MoD confirms nuclear near-miss
Defence bosses have confirmed that a US fighter jet came within a few hundred feet of the former Berkeley nuclear power station in Gloucestershire.
The Ministry of Defence also confirmed two breaches by RAF helicopters of the anti-terrorist no-fly zone around the decommissioned plant.
The MoD said the three incidents since the September 11 attacks had been accidental.
There had been no risk to people or property, the MoD said.
Sunday, 2 May, 2004,


Berkeley is not the only nuclear site in the area. Oldbury further down the Severn has had other problems, as this report tells from Friday, 13 July 2007:

Nuclear power plant closed again
A nuclear power station has only been open for a total of eight days since August, it has been revealed. Oldbury Power Station in South Gloucestershire recently closed for an undisclosed reason, three days after reopening at the end of June.
It was also closed at the end of May after a fire at the plant.
Plant manager Pete Harper said: "Our number one priority is safety. We wouldn't run this plant if it wasn't safe to do so."
He added that the plant would only be brought back on line when it was safe to do so.
Oldbury is due to stop generating electricity at the end of 2008.

Maybe the people affected by the floods have enough misery without adding panic. But the true picture will have to come out if people are to know what to expect, and what steps need to be taken for future safety. "What you don't know can't harm you" was never a sensible belief, as we are learning.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home