Scotland: Calls to close leaking N-plant : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Calls to close leaking N-plant Source: Sunday Herald Publication date: 2001-07-22 Arrival time: 2001-07-25

The Scottish National Party and environmentalists yesterday called for the ageing Chapelcross nuclear power station in Dumfries and Galloway to be closed down as details emerged of a second accident involving radioactive materials. Uranium oxide leaked from old waste drums, seeped through a wall and contamin-ated the ground. British Nuclear Fuels, the state-owned company that runs the plant, said the drums were corroded by water leaking from a gutter.

It is the second incident at Chapelcross in a fortnight. Managers are still trying to retrieve 12 highly radioactive fuel rods that were dropped five and a half feet during a defuelling operation on July 5. Another 12 rods were recovered after falling 85 feet down a fuel shaft. Three were broken and released radioactive gas, though BNFL says the amount was so small it did not increase radiation levels in the plant.

The SNP, which is sending senior representatives to Chapelcross next Friday, fears BNFL is cutting corners on safety. "I am worried that the company may be running the station into the ground in order to make more profit while failing to put in investments on safety," said shadow deputy environment minister Fiona McLeod. If that were the case, she argued, the plant should be closed.

Chapelcross, which is 43 years old, is Scotland's oldest nuclear power plant. As well as making electricity, it plays a unique role producing tritium for Trident nuclear warheads. "Are they keeping the plant going for military purposes, not just electricity generation?" asked McLeod.

Both Friends of the Earth Scotland and Greenpeace said Chapelcross was well past its sell-by date. Shaun Burnie from Greenpeace also suggested the plant was kept going because of its military function.

After it had located all 24 dropped rods last week, BNFL revised its plans to shut down the two Chapelcross reactors currently generating power.

There was also confirmation yesterday that all eight pressure release valves on the two reactors at Torness nuclear power station, in East Lothian, had been at the wrong setting for three years. During a routine check more than a week ago, operators found that the setting of both reactors' safety valves was out "by a couple of decimal points".

The station's operator, British Energy, said the incident had not jeopardised safety. "We have taken steps to make sure that it doesn't happen again," said a spokesperson. British Energy also denied that the incident was connected to the sacking of Torness manager David Williams earlier this month.

-- Carl Jenkins (, July 25, 2001

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