Investigation over Sizewell incident

A FURTHER incident has occurred at the Sizewell B nuclear power station involving the failure of equipment used to monitor radioactive discharges.The UK nuclear safety watchdog has also issued a formal notice following an accident at the power plant in which a two-tonne rotor fell from a crane.

By David Green

A FURTHER incident has occurred at the Sizewell B nuclear power station involving the failure of equipment used to monitor radioactive discharges.

The UK nuclear safety watchdog has also issued a formal notice following an accident at the power plant in which a two-tonne rotor fell from a crane.

British Energy was served with an enforcement notice on September 23 following the discovery of radioactive particles in liquid waste being discharged into the North Sea.

A subsequent incident, which occurred on October 14 and is disclosed in the company's latest newsletter, involved a malfunction in equipment used to monitor air-born discharges of tritium - a radioactive isotope.

The Environment Agency, which served the enforcement notice over the original incident, is investigating the latest problem.

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Meanwhile the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) has served an improvement notice on British Energy after the crane accident in which a sling broke and the rotor crashed several metres to the floor of the power station.

No-one was hurt in the incident, which occurred on September 28 and is also reported in the latest newsletter published by British Energy.

The second incident involving a malfunction in radioactive discharge monitoring equipment is being blamed on previous maintenance work.

British Energy said the monitor was immediately corrected and had since shown that tritium levels on that discharge route were well within authorised limits.

However, Paul Naylor, the Environment Agency's nuclear regulator for Sizewell B, revealed yesterday that the fault would itself have sparked the issue of an enforcement notice if the existing notice had not been in force.

“We have broadened our investigations to cover both incidents. The checks instigated for the first incident will cover the second fault,” he said.

The NII's improvement notice, issued following the crane accident, requires the company to review and improve its rigging and lifting procedures.

Martin Pearce, British Energy spokesman, said the company had informed the NII of the crane accident immediately after it had happened.

“Since then we have been working with the inspectorate to identify the cause and institute remedial action,” he said.

“British Energy continues to promote safety and risk assessment in all areas of our operations and fully accepts the observation of the regulator.”

The review and improvements to rigging and lifting procedures are due to be completed by January.

Charles Barnett, chairman of the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign, said it was “laughable” that British Energy's flagship power station was experiencing problems only six or seven years after it had begun operation.

He added: “I shudder to think what might happen later in its 40-year lifetime. The NII should show some backbone and close it down until all systems have been checked to its satisfaction.”

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