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Safety could be reviewed at Sizewell

PUBLISHED: 14:42 27 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:38 03 March 2010

NUCLEAR power station Sizewell B could face a safety review after corrosion was found at the core of a similar American reactor.

The corrosion was found to have almost eaten away the vessel that holds the nuclear heart of a reactor at the Davis-Besse plant in Ohio.

NUCLEAR power station Sizewell B could face a safety review after corrosion was found at the core of a similar American reactor.

The corrosion was found to have almost eaten away the vessel that holds the nuclear heart of a reactor at the Davis-Besse plant in Ohio.

It is alleged the damage, which significantly raised the risk of meltdown, was discovered by accident.

Checks were being conducted on 68 pressurised water type nuclear reactors across America and a similar procedure could be followed in Suffolk.

The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) today said no decision had been made on whether extra checks would be carried out at Sizewell B, Britain's only pressurised water reactor.

John McNamara, of Sizewell B, said the decision to carry out the checks was in the hands of the NII.

He said: "We can only operate on the terms of our license and this is very carefully regulated by the NII.

"We carry out regular maintenance at Sizewell B during our planned shutdowns and can only restart the reactor when we are given the go ahead by the regulators."

The NII will analyse information from the US before making a decision on whether to carry out checks in Suffolk.

However as Sizewell B has only been operation for seven years, in comparison to the 25 years of most of the American reactors it is not believed any corrosion is likely to be as serious.

An inspection at the Davis-Besse plant caught experts by surprise when they found a hole six inches deep, seven inches in length and about five inches wide in the pressure vessel.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission said vessel degradation "can pose a significant safety risk."

If the liner had given way there would have been a serious leak and it significantly raised the risk of a core damage – possibly a meltdown – and a release of radiation.

Sizewell B is shutdown once every 18-months for maintenance and checks.

Sizewell B – Factfile

n Construction on the site started in 1984 and was completed a decade later. Protestors set up the Stop Sizewell B campaign on the ground that the area already had Sizewell A and concerns were expressed about the increased amount of nuclear waste. Sizewell A comes to the end of its useful life in 2006.

n The cost of construction of the site was a staggering £2.2billion

n The operating life of the power station is 40 years

n The walls of the reactor containment are vessel are four feet thick

n The reactor core itself is the size of a minibus

WEBLINK: For more information about the Sizewell B power plant visit www.british-energy.com


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