Nuclear reactor shut down

NUCLEAR officials praised safety systems at the Sizewell A plant in Suffolk after a reactor "tripped" – causing a loud bang and clouds of what appeared to be smoke to blow into the air.

NUCLEAR officials praised safety systems at the Sizewell A plant in Suffolk after a reactor "tripped" – causing a loud bang and clouds of what appeared to be smoke to blow into the air.

An investigation is under way into what caused the fault, which happened just after 7pm last night and sparked a number of calls to police from alarmed residents.

Police and firefighters arrived at the site but British Nuclear Group, which owns the nuclear power station, immediately confirmed the vapour was clean steam and not radioactive, caused by a reactor tripping and shutting down.

However, a spokesman for the company admitted that a reactor shut down would be "commercially costly".

The alarm was raised shortly after 7pm when a member of the public contacted Suffolk police reporting they had heard a loud bang and witnessed smoke blowing out of the power plant.

Engineers at Sizewell informed police reactor two at the site had tripped and safely shut down, stressing that no radioactive material had leaked into the atmosphere. It is not yet known what caused the incident.

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Colin Bennett, a spokesman for British Nuclear Group, said there was no risk to workers or members of the public as a result of the incident and that all the safety systems had operated correctly.

"When you trip a reactor you then have to depressurise the system and you dump steam," he said.

"It comes out of the station at a very high pressure and it's very noisy. It's the steam that appears to have caught the attention of the locals and we are sorry about the noise.

"There are a number of safety systems that kick in. Emergency services did attend but there are no safety problems. There was no release of radioactive material at all. It's a perfectly normal safe shut down of reactor.

"What it means we have lost one half of Sizewell A station, which is commercially costly. Clearly we will try and get the reactor up as soon as we can."

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