The nuclear safety regulator has been accused of turning a blind eye to dozens of serious mistakes at power plants and military bases. A torpedo inadvertently fired by a Navy warship at the nuclear submarine dock in Plymouth and three road accidents involving vehicles carrying radioactive material were among the events dismissed as posing no danger. Analysis by The Times shows that while the number of safety incidents formally declared by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has been stable for a decade, the rate of faults recorded by the watchdog has doubled since 2010 to more than one a day. Between 2012 and 2015 the ONR gave 973 “anomalies” an International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) score of zero or left them unrated, meaning they were judged to have been of “no nuclear safety significance”. Among them were: Four cases where tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, was found at elevated levels in groundwater around the Dungeness B reactor in Kent; At least 70 safety incidents on the UK’s main nuclear warhead base at Aldermaston, Berkshire, including the contamination of several workers and a power cut across the site; An accident where a vehicle carrying nuclear material on the M1 hit a lorry, and another where a transport lorry flipped over, damaging two containers holding radioactive chemicals; Uranium “sludge” and an unstable form of caesium left in bin bags at Springfields, a former power plant, and Amersham nuclear materials factory; At least a dozen leaks of radioactive substances and more than 30 fires at power stations, including an event where a control panel at the Sellafield site was burnt out. Experts on the nuclear industry said it was extraordinary that these events had been dismissed so lightly. Some said they were concerned that the ONR’s close ties to the industry had compromised its willingness to expose mistakes. One experienced engineer, speaking anonymously, said: “I do believe that the ONR downplays the incidents’ severity and the incompetence that has led to these events.” A former member of the government’s nuclear safety advisory committee said the events looked like “strange anomalies” that should have been taken much more seriously. The document shows that radiation alarms at Britain’s ports and airports were set off on 15 separate occasions by packages that were not supposed to contain any radioactive material, including four at Heathrow. It also reveals that a contractor at Harwell swallowed plutonium, a worker at the Devonport nuclear submarine base in Plymouth breathed in an unstable isotope of cobalt and 13 others at various sites had worryingly high radiation counts found in urine. Sellafield, a fuel reprocessing centre and former reactor in Cumbria that has been called the world’s riskiest nuclear site, recorded 167 problems, by far the largest number. These included several power cuts, ground contaminations, unplanned shutdowns and a complete loss of cooling water around the reactor. The ONR works closely with the 37 nuclear sites it regulates and asks them to help to draw up safety plans. This relationship has been too cosy for some experts, who worry that the ONR is letting too many accidents around reactors slip under the radar.
Times 27th Dec 2016 read more »
BBC 27th Dec 2016 read more »
Celebrations are taking place at our Harwell site this festive season as the former research centre, birthplace of the UK nuclear industry, reaches the grand old age of 70. In 1946, just as Britain was recovering from the end of the World War 2, pioneering scientists at Harwell introduced the UK to civil nuclear power – including development of western Europe’s first nuclear reactor. Based on a former RAF airfield, Harwell was initially taken over by the Ministry of Supply to become the Atomic Energy Research Establishment. This then became the UK’s centre for research into civil nuclear power with a wide range of experimental facilities. In total, 14 experimental reactors were built on the site, including the UK’s first fast reactor.
Wired Gov 27th Dec 2016 read more »
Toshiba Corp. may post a loss of some 100 billion yen ($851 million) for the year through March in connection with its nuclear plant business in the United States, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday. The company, which is battling to overcome a massive window-dressing scandal, expects the amount of the full-year loss could grow, the sources said. The loss is likely to be posted after a review of asset values in CB&I Stone & Webster Inc., a nuclear plant builder Toshiba bought in December 2015, the sources said. In a statement released Tuesday, Toshiba said that it is considering booking an impairment loss stemming from a markdown in the value of the U.S. unit. The company said it will hold a board meeting Tuesday to discuss the matter and details will be released after the meeting if necessary. Toshiba has been in a dispute with Chicago Bridge & Iron Co. N.V., which sold CB&I Stone & Webster to the Japanese company, over the difference in their valuations of the unit’s assets and business.
Mainichi 27th Dec 2016 read more »
US – WIPP
A nuclear waste storage facility in New Mexico will resume some operations as early as next month — nearly three years after it closed following an accident that contaminated the facility with radiation, officials said Friday. The U.S. Department of Energy said Friday the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeast New Mexico has been approved by regulators to resume at least some of its operations. The plant was closed after a February 2014 incident in which a drum of nuclear waste ruptured, exposing part of the facility to toxic radiation.
UPI 23rd Dec 2016 read more »
In 2016, renewable energy surpassed coal as the largest source of installed power capacity in the world. China’s carbon emissions peaked. The German upper house, the Bundesrat, voted to ban gasoline-powered cars by 2030. Vancouver chose to outlaw natural gas in new buildings by the same year. These are among the many signs the world is moving toward kicking its carbon habit, possibly by mid-century – a shift that would represent the simplest way to combat climate change. Canada faces a paradox in this regard. We are a large country with many resources, a small population and we already produce 10 per cent of the world’s hydro power, so you might think we could easily power ourselves with 100-per-cent renewable energy. On the other hand, most of our territory is not connected to electrical grids nor near population centres. In addition, we are energy hogs, in part owing to our need for heating and transportation that comes with a northern climate and dispersed population. The bottom line: There is plenty of renewable-energy potential near current roads, power lines and population centres. Most of it is wind power, with plenty of hydro and solar as well. In fact, every province except Alberta and Ontario has a large surfeit – enough to be choosy about siting installations to minimize environmental side-effects.
Globe and Mail 24th Dec 2016 read more »
Campaigners have called for an increase in funding for energy-efficiency measures in Scotland’s homes as a poll shows strong support for the move. WWF Scotland urged ministers to boost investment in improving cold and damp housing in order to slash fuel poverty and help meet climate change targets. A OnePoll survey of 1,000 Scots commissioned by the environmental charity found 69% agreed the Scottish Government should increase spending on improving home energy efficiency, with a further 87% backing an end to cold homes in Scotland by 2025. WWF Scotland has united with health, housing and anti-poverty organisations to back funding for energy efficiency being increased to £190 million, with a total of £4.5 billion of public funds being spent between now and 2025 through subsidised loans, grants for the fuel-poor and other schemes. The group highlights that while the Government’s draft budget for 2017-18 proposes a year-on-year increase in spending on fuel poverty and home energy efficiency to £114 million, it falls short of the £119 million spent in 2015-16.
Aberdeen Evening Express 26th Dec 2016 read more »
Scotsman 26th Dec 2016 read more »
Third Force News 26th Dec 2016 read more »