4 Feb 2010

Oldbury: oldest operating graphite core in world

largeHopefully by the weekend we will have got our nuke consultation stuff completed to send off - the local Green party are making a submission to the current two consultations - see more here. I plan a blog on that, but thought a brief update on the current Oldbury nukes was worth a mention...but should also a mention of the silent protest planned for Saturday in Thornbury against new reactors - see here.

Well for the first time in several years, both of Oldbury’s reactors are fully operational and generating 400MW of electricity each day. The Oldbury site, which is operated by Magnox North on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), began working with the regulators several years ago to try to demonstrate the structural integrity of the graphite in the oldest operating irradiated graphite core in the world. Nobody has done this before!!

I have to note I am not convinced by all the reassurances - when independent nuclear scientist John Large spoke in Oct 2007 (see photo) the graphite problem was seen as very serious - his slide presentation delivered in Stroud was fascinating - see my write up here (although for some reason the photos have been lost) - and John's presentation is still available to download from the web site here. Even with the additional safety measure

John's slide show has some disturbing maps showing how rapidly radiation could spread (see one example left). Greens have repeatedly called for the closure of the two reactors that were only built to run for 25 years and are now in their 41st year!!

There are many letters on the Glos Green website about calling for closure of the reactors (like here and back in 2005 here) and several times it seemed to very close indeed to closing. I also remember Manchester research showing that at 35% weight loss the bricks could only support 12% of the weight they were designed to support - see here. I know we have some great safety experts in the nuke industry and am sure they take all these issues into account, but to me this is playing with too many unknowns. I fear the pressure to produce energy and the ££££££££ could lead to risks to our safety.

Indeed the Daily Telegraph on 26th Jan reported that operators of Britain's nuclear power stations reported 1,343 incidents to the Health and Safety Executive since 2001. The authority’s inspectors classified 773 of them as posing no threat, while 563 were safety anomalies. But seven incidents, five of which were related to power plants operated by British Energy, have been listed as harmful. Read for example about THORP here.

fairlieWhat is Tritium?

The existing Oldbury nuclear power station emits much tritium I am told – well this is the radioactive isotope of hydrogen and is by far the largest and most important of the radionuclides released from Oldbury. Any new station at Oldbury would also release large amounts of tritium.

A Q&A blog by Ian Fairlie , who has previously spoken in Stroud (see photo), sets out answers to frequently-asked questions about tritium - see it here.

New website

Lastly there is another new website re Oldbury - worth a look at: www.oldburynuclearviewpoint.org.uk/

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