Feeds

Industry, government downplay nuclear safety worries

Cracks in ageing reactors 'normal'

Application security programs and practises

Sources in the nuclear industry and government have downplayed reports claiming cracks in ageing reactors are causing safety fears.

The Health and Safety Executive responded to reports in today's Guardian of inspection documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act with a statement designed to allay panic. It said: "If HSE were not confident in the safety of the reactor cores we would not allow the reactors to operate."

The fears centre on fractures in the graphite bricks inside reactor cores. After visiting the Hinkley Point B reactor in Somerset this April, one inspector wrote: "While I do not believe that a large release [of radiation] is a likely scenario, some lesser event...is, I believe, inevitable at some stage if a vigilant precautionary approach is not adopted.

"There is an an increased likelihood of increased risk should we agree to continued operation."

The documents say safety officials are unable to determine the cause of the deterioration at some of British Energy's 13 Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors (AGRs).

Within an AGR, a column of graphite receives uranium fuel rods into extremely precise holes and serves to moderate the flow of neutrons. It slows them down to a speed where they are able to sustain nuclear fission in the uranium. Cracks in the column could lead to misalignment of the rods, jamming the reactor and making shut-down difficult.

The HSE said it was happy British Energy has the situation under control. Its statement read: "Matters have moved on since April and British Energy has provided new evidence in support of the reactor core safety case."

A spokesman for British Energy told the BBC: "Cracks will occur in some of the bricks as part of the normal ageing process within the graphite reactor core. This is a phenomenon known about, and anticipated for, within the safety case."

The disclosures come at an awkward time for the government, however. Tony Blair has all but expressed outright support for a new generation of reactors to meet growing energy demands and climate change obligations ahead of the soon to be released DTI Energy Review. He has admitted an about-face on expanding nuclear power since the last policy review in 2003. Blair told the Commons liaison committee yesterday: "I'll be totally honest with you, I've changed my mind."

Proponents of nuclear power might argue the deterioration in plants installed decades ago buttresses their case for a new generation of reactors. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.