Pipe may have caused radioactive leak

AN ACCIDENT which led to the spillage of 40,000 gallons of radioactive water is likely to have been part-caused by the fitting of the wrong type of pipe.

AN ACCIDENT which led to the spillage of 40,000 gallons of radioactive water is likely to have been part-caused by the fitting of the wrong type of pipe.

The error is believed to have occurred when the Sizewell A nuclear power station was built.

The disclosure came as the deputy site director, Paul Wilkinson, offered an apology to residents for not informing them about the emergency at the time it happened.

Residents were left worrying about what was happening on the nuclear site after hearing sirens and the arrival of emergency vehicles on the afternoon of Sunday, January 7 - a week after the ageing power station had reached the end of its 40-year operating lifetime.


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Mr Wilkinson told residents last night - at a meeting organised in order to brief them about the accident - that a 15-feet-long split had suddenly occurred in a pipe carrying water “mildly” contaminated with radioactivity.

It had since been discovered that the pipe was not of the “heavy duty” type specified when the power station was designed and built in the 1960s, he said.

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Routine checks had failed to identify any weakness in the pipe in the period before the accident.

Mr Wilkinson said all pipework in the area was now being replaced as a precaution and this would delay the start of the final removal of spent uranium fuel rods from the two reactors for several weeks.

About 30,000 gallons of the contaminated water had been recovered inside the building.

The rest had gone into storm drains and had been discharged into the North Sea, although it represented only a tiny fraction of the amount of radioactivity the station was authorised to discharge each year, Mr Wilkinson said.

He apologised to local residents for the failure to inform them at the time of the emergency.

“We have strived to be good neighbours but we failed on this occasion,” he said.

Pat Hogan, who represents local residents on a nuclear site liaison committee, said was disappointed that, having been routinely informed of incidents over the past few years, she had not received a phone call about the emergency.

“There were police along the beach and we did not know what was happening. If we had received a call we would have been more confident,” she said.

Another resident, Jan Lovell, said: “It was upsetting - it broke the trust we had built up.”

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