16 May 2015

Oldbury nuclear: empty flatbed flask derailed

Russ cartoon; expressing some folk's feelings re nuclear
Green Party member Angela Paine made her way to another Oldbury Site Stakeholder meeting on 29 April 2015. Here are some of her notes:

Although there was a printed copy of the Office for Nuclear Regulation Quarterly Site Report for Oldbury, no representatives of the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) were present at the meeting. They decided not to attend any meetings until after the election.

The Health and Safety Executive no longer exists. It has been absorbed into ONR. This is just one of many changes that have come about as a result of the privatisation of the nuclear industry. How this impacts safety is not clear. Click read more to see more.

The nuclear power station at Oldbury still contains a quarter of its fuel rods and these all have to be removed. The steel cladding is stripped from the fuel rods remotely under water, in one of the ponds in the power station. The fuel rods are then loaded into a 'flask' which is lifted onto a transporter. This drives to the railhead at Berkley, where a lifting device lifts it onto a flatbed railway truck. The flask with its radioactive cargo now travels by train through Cheltenham, Worcester, Wolverhampton, Stafford, Crew, Wigan and Preston to Sellafield, where the fuel rods are removed remotely for reprocessing. The empty flask returns to Berkley by train, by the same route in reverse. It is lifted from the railhead onto the road transporter to be driven back to Oldbury nuclear power station, ready to be filled with the next load of fuel rods.

ONR reported that during the previous quarter an empty fuel flask flatbed was derailed at the Berkley railhead. There were no radiological implications from the incident.  (Office for Nuclear Regulation Quarterly Site Report for Oldbury 1 Jan-31 March.)...But had the flask flatbed been fully loaded there would indeed have been radiological implications. Spent fuel is highly radioactive. There is also a great deal of radioactivity left inside the empty flask but I was assured that the flasks are so robust that nothing could ever leak out of one.

Oldbury also found a damaged thread on a fuel flask and quarantined the flask until it was decided what to do. (Office for Nuclear Regulation Quarterly Site Report for Oldbury 1 Jan-31 March.)

At the last meeting I attended a piece of radioactive metal got stuck onto the outside of one of the flasks. ONR were very apologetic about this and assured the public that they had cleaned out the ponds and made sure no debris was left and it wouldn't happen again.

There remain approximately one hundred flask-fulls of fuel rods to be removed from the nuclear power station and at the rate of three flasks per week this is expected to take the rest of the year. It is of concern that these flasks travel by train through highly populated areas and accidents, as we have seen, do occur.

Once defuelling is complete, a period of fuel free verification is required to confirm no fuel is left in areas where it was stored or used during the operating period. (Mike Heation Oldbury site director – Report on Oldbury Activityies to SSG April 2015.)

There is no longer any requirement to provide secondary cooling to the boilers. The operating rules and maintenance regimes can be reduced as a result of this change. (Mike Heation Oldbury site director – Report on Oldbury Activities to SSG April 2015.)

Presumably this means laying off more staff. I noticed that the NDA have a workforce transition scheme for two Welsh sites but not for Oldbury.

Incidentally the crowd funded wind turbine that will be built on the other side of the river Severn, right opposite Oldbury nuclear power station, will, in my view, generate more money for the local community than the nuclear power station ever did. The Nuclear industry opposed this wind turbine in every way they could think of but it seems they have lost that fight. Now that work has stopped on Hinkley C, due to the Austrian challenge, it seems that the nuclear renaissance is vanishing into the distance. Certainly at the SSG meeting no mention was made of nuclear new build.

No comments: