Too many French nuclear workers are being contaminated with low doses of radiation - that is the claim of an independent research group on atomic safety on Thursday, a day after the latest incident in southern France ...
The Independent Commission on Research and Information on Radioactivity (CRIIRAD) also said a growing number of French nuclear workers were complaining about worsening working conditions and their likely impact on safety: "In less than 15 days, the CRIIRAD has been informed of four malfunctions in four nuclear plants, leading to the accidental contamination of 126 workers. This is the first time I have seen so many people being contaminated in such a short period of time."
There are fears of ground-water being contaminated as well as the workers - indeed the Government have ordered investigations at all 58 nuclear reactors in France. Meanwhile we learn that French government owned EdF are set to buy British Energy who are based in Gloucester and own Hinkley Point B and seven other UK nuclear power stations. Here is the comment from Stop Hinkley:
The news was reported today that EdF look set to increase their bid in partnership with British Gas owners, Centrica from £10 billion two months ago to £12 billion. Stop Hinkley campaigners are concerned about poor maintenance at nuclear plants operated by EdF's sister company Areva (2) which this week led to one hundred nuclear workers becoming contaminated at a reactor near Avignon. The same reactor four weeks ago leaked uranium from an underground pipe forcing water usage bans in the area. Two other safety events have occurred in other Areva owned French plants in the last month.
Hinkley B is plagued with internal corrosion problems which could be exarcerbated with similar maintenance short-cuts. Hinkley's reactor core weight loss is over 25% according to safety inspectors, nearby boiler tubes were found to have extensive weld faults, the reactor support struts were found to be suffering from too much radiation and the reactor's last shut-down system is missing.
EdF was recently the target of anti-nuclear demonstrations at its partly built new reactor at Flamanville in northern France. Protestors, appalled at safety regulator's reports of badly mixed concrete in the reactor's foundations blockaded local quarries preventing sand deliveries to the plant for 30 hours.
The EdF move will bring Hinkley Point C and possibly Hinkley D a step nearer. EdF recently bought up land adjoining the Hinkley site. Acquiring the additional British Energy land would probably give EdF room to build two European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs). The land acquisition controversially included several fields earmarked for a nine turbine wind-farm plus some more from a neighbouring land-owner. The land is currently being tested by EdF for suitability for nuclear new build.
The likely £4 billion profit the UK government will make as a 35% shareholder in British Energy will probably go to the Nuclear Liabilities Fund and held temporarily in government bonds (see Rebert Peston's log, link below). The NLF will require many tens of billions to decommission the ageing British Energy reactors. This fund is separate from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority who are cleaning up Sellafield and the older Magnox stations (like Hinkley A) at a cost of £83 billion.
The Government took the third share of British Energy in 2003 as part of a rescue deal when the company almost became bankrupt, just seven years after privatisation. British Energy had bought eight nuclear power stations for the price of one in the Thatcher-driven sell off in 1996.
Jim Duffy Coordinator of Stop Hinkley said: "This worries me for many reasons. Hinkley B's age related problems mean it should shut down now but the new owners are likely to keep milking it with an ever increasing risk of an accident. EdF's recent accident record gives me no confidence. If their errors are repeated, the local shorelines could become more radioactive affecting populations from Minehead to Burnham-on-Sea.
"Reports of their substandard new construction work which might apply to Hinkley C or D if they get the go-ahead are also extremely concerning. Nuclear is not a safe option, leaving us with a toxic legacy and will not help solve climate change. The government should press ahead with its promises for clean renewable energy, giving us three times the electricity we now get from nuclear."