Sizewell bosses claim no risk from leak

BOSSES at a recently closed nuclear power station have insisted there is no risk to members of the public after a broken pipe caused 40,000 gallons of radioactive water to escape.

DETAILS of how radioactive water came to leak out of a special pond at the decommissioned Sizewell A power station will be made public, a spokesman said today.

The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate has launched an inquiry into Sunday's accident, which happened a week after the power station stopped generating electricity for the National Grid.

An estimated 40,000 gallons of radioactive water, used to cool nuclear fuel before it is sent to Sellafield for reprocessing, escaped from a broken pipe.

However a spokesman for the station said none of the water left the site - it was held in special tanks on until it could be disposed of.

And nuclear industry consultant and former Sizewell engineer Len Green said the level of radioactivity in the water was very low.

He said: “You'd probably get a higher reading from some types of garden fertiliser. Personally I'd be happy to have a bath in that water!”

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However he agreed that there should be a full inquiry into the incident: “People have to have confidence in the decommissioning process - and that means everything has to be open and above board.

Charles Barnett, chairman of the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign, said: “I'm sceptical of the Sizewell A establishment saying it is quite all right. You might find for example that contaminated water has seeped into the ground and could come out in the cliffs where the public go.

“It is evidence that it's a good thing that the station has closed - like many other stations it is clapped out and long past its sell by date.

“This happened on a Sunday and since the station has shut down it may be the case that there weren't the usual compliment of staff on site.

“It could be the case that the leak would have been spotted sooner and the leakage might have been less.”

Bosses at the station insisted there is no risk to members of the public. He said the escape was stopped rapidly: “That breakage allowed 40,000 gallons of cooling pond water to escape into the plant and some of the area immediately outside the building.

“The pump water does have some trace levels of radioactivity however it hasn't actually caused us to exceed our radiation discharge limits.”

The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate confirmed it was investigating the pipe breakage, adding that no water had left the site and there had been no contact with members of the public or workers.

A spokesman for the British Nuclear Group said that as the cause of the incident is still under investigation it would not be appropriate to comment.