Inspectors to meet over Sizewell A leak

SAFETY inspectors are to meet with management officials at the Sizewell A nuclear power station next week.The meeting is part of a probe into the reasons that a pipe fractured leading to a leak of more than 40,000 gallons of radioactive water.

SAFETY inspectors are to meet with management officials at the Sizewell A nuclear power station next week.

The meeting is part of a probe into the reasons that a pipe fractured leading to a leak of more than 40,000 gallons of radioactive water.

Repairs and clean-up operations stemming from the leak, on January 7, are understood to be costing British Nuclear Group, the plant operators, hundreds of thousands of pounds.

The Environment Agency disclosed that although much of the water had been recovered on site, some had been discharged into the North Sea via storm drains.

However, Chris Lloyd, the agency's Sizewell A inspector, said yesterday that in terms of radioactivity this would have amounted to only ten per cent of a normal, authorised monthly discharge.

“The environmental impact would be very small and the incident is not significant in terms of a public health risk,” he said.

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The fractured pipe was part of a “loop” involving cooling ponds in which highly radioactive spent fuel rods are stored prior to despatch to the Sellafield reprocessing plant.

Water is circulated from the ponds to a “chiller” plant which cools the water before returning it to the ponds.

Mr Lloyd said there had previously been “minor” operational problems with the plant involved but the reason for the pipe fracturing had still not been established.

He was unaware of a similar incident at any of the UK's other Magnox nuclear plants.

A meeting is due to take place on site next week involving the Environment Agency and the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate.

Although British Nuclear Group is not thought to have exceeded any of the limits on radioactive discharges to the environment, regulators will want to be satisfied that it has complied with its duty to maintain the plant in good order and monitor its condition.

Campaigners wanted to know why the fault was not noticed more quickly.

James Tott, Sizewell A spokesman, said the investigation into the incident was ongoing.

The cost of the clean-up and repairs had not yet been calculated but most of the work was being carried out “in-house”.

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