Wednesday, 18 May 2011

UK Interim report into Fukushima disaster concludes Wylfa B can continue

The UK Government's Chief Nuclear Inspector has today released his interim report into the implications to the UK's nuclear fleet in light of the Fukushima disaster.

He clearly states that the UK is highly unlikely to suffer a similar situation to the one which gave rise to the meltdown in Fukushima:

"The direct causes of the nuclear accident, a magnitude 9 earthquake and the associated 14 metre high tsunami, are far beyond the most extreme natural events that the UK would be expected to experience. We are reassuringly some 1000 miles from the edge of a tectonic plate, where earthquake activity is more common and severe."

He also goes on to point out that we do not use the same reactor types in the UK or plan to do so in the future:

"UK nuclear power plants, both operational and those planned, are of a different design to the BWR [Boiling Water Reactor] reactors at the Fukushima-1 site."

He report then makes the following 11 conclusions for the UK:

Conclusion 1: In considering the direct causes of the Fukushima accident we see no reason for curtailing the operation of nuclear power plants or other nuclear facilities in the UK. Once further work is completed any proposed improvements will be considered and implemented on a case by case basis, in line with our normal regulatory approach.

Conclusion 2: In response to the Fukushima accident, the UK nuclear power industry has reacted responsibly and appropriately displaying leadership for safety and a strong safety culture in its response to date.

Conclusion 3: The Government’s intention to take forward proposals to create the Office for Nuclear Regulation, with the post and responsibilities of the Chief Inspector in statute, should enhance confidence in the UK’s nuclear regulatory regime to more effectively face the challenges of the future.

Conclusion 4: To date, the consideration of the known circumstances of the Fukushima accident has not revealed any gaps in scope or depth of the Safety Assessment Principles for nuclear facilities in the UK.

Conclusion 5: Our considerations of the events in Japan, and the possible lessons for the UK, has not revealed any significant weaknesses in the UK nuclear licensing regime.

Conclusion 6: Flooding risks are unlikely to prevent construction of new nuclear power stations at potential development sites in the UK over the next few years. For sites with a flooding risk, detailed consideration may require changes to plant layout and the provision of particular protection against flooding.

Conclusion 7: There is no need to change the present siting strategies for new nuclear power stations in the UK.

Conclusion 8: There is no reason to depart from a multi-plant site concept given the design measures in new reactors being considered for deployment in the UK and adequate demonstration in design and operational safety cases.

Conclusion 9: The UK’s gas-cooled reactors have lower power densities and larger thermal capacities than water cooled reactors which with natural cooling capabilities give longer timescales for remedial action. Additionally, they have a lesser need for venting on loss of cooling and do not produce concentrations of hydrogen from fuel cladding overheating.

Conclusion 10: There is no evidence to suggest that the presence of MOX fuel in Reactor Unit 3 significantly contributed to the health impact of the accident on or off the site.

Conclusion 11: With more information there is likely to be considerable scope for lessons to be learnt about human behaviour in severe accident conditions that will be useful in enhancing contingency arrangements and training in the UK for such events.

Based on conclusions 1, 6, and 7 above, it is clear that the disaster at Fukushima will not prevent the continued development of Wylfa B here in Ynys Môn.

Read the whole report below:
Japanese earthquake and tsunami: Implications for the UK Nuclear Industry


The Red Flag said...

Noo problems at all with Wylfa B however it must not rely on state money, and it must be fully insured. At the moment the plan is that they only have to insure the first billion of liability and the state will pick the rest up. That is wrong.

That it charges the full price for it's electricity so that consumer understands that nuclear is not cheap unless the costs are hidden in taxation on other things such as fags, booze, petrol, income tax etc.

In addition all waste from both A & B to remain on-site where possible and always within the UK where not with the operating companies meeting the full cost and a trust fund established by the operating companies to cover the cost of securing it for the next few thousand years.

Other than that crack on and build it.

Puck said...

"It could never happen here" said Mr Ostrich of

"Japanese Officials Ignored or Concealed Dangers"

Just don't come crying to me when the smell of spilled milk forces the stable door open again.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or are all these things highly-orchestrated?

First, a call for the government to come clean on its subsidies, which do exist and will continue to exist. Then a ta-da announcement on carbon cuts. Then this report.

All providing the 'desired answer' of: yes, we will have nuclear.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of highky orchestrated, did you all get a newsletter today - Issue 5 of Horizon's Community Update?

I wonder how many actually get read as opposed to binned or used to line the cat tray.

RIchard Sletzer said...

We should recall that the putative "new" leader of Plaid Cymru Lord Elis Thomas got his principles tangled up when he was confronted with a plan to extend the life of the Trawsfynydd nuclear plant in what was then his Parliamentary constituency.

I believe there was to be a sequence of proving-tests to be carried out to see whether the Magnox core could withstand heating above normal levels (with considerable ssfety precautions being taken).

DET's avowed anti-nuclear stance conflicted with need to provide employment for his constituents.
In the end the scheme was never undertaken, Trawsfynydd closed, the jobs were lost when conceivably the station could have operated for another ten or more years.

For the left in Wales nuclear power stations - no matter how safe - will always be labelled as dangerous and politically undesireable.

The Red Flag said...

The problem is the impact of an error. Build a gas fired generation system and it has a massive failure and there will be an explosion that will kill a handful of people.

Build a nuclear station and a relatively minor problem - such as a cooling failure, and nobody dies but you have to evacuate 30 miles around it for an unknown length of time.

People aren't in the slightest bothered about how electricity is made at Wylfa, it;s the implications of a mistake they are bothered about.

So, if nuclear is so good then why do they not follow basic economics? It's better to build it nas near to the requirement for power as possible. So why aren't they building one at Battersea to power London? The banks of the Tyne to power Newcastle? The banks of the Mersey to power merseyside? The baks of the MSC to power Manchester? Especially when you consider that they are fresh water sources and so will cause les corrosion.

Wouldn't be because they daren't because something might go wrong by any chance?

Not that it would. Perfectly safe.

And why do we not consider Thorium?

Anonymous said...

"And why do we not consider Thorium?"

The historic reason was likely because there was/is no opportunity to (ab)use the Thorium process to create weapons-grade material.

Not sure what the current excuse is; allegedly the current (not Thorium) reactor designs can't be used to create weapons-grade products, and the centrifuges used to process (aka enrich) fuel for Western reactors have no possibility of nuclear use (we are told). Yet the largely identical centrifuges in Iran have a serious capability of nuclear use, we are told.

Surely the industry (and their government sponsors) would never mislead us, would they?

The Red Flag said...

anon - nip across and read my blog. You'll find the link on the Druids side bar

Anonymous said...

As someone who has worked in the Nuclear Power Industry in the UK for over 40 years, being involved in the manufacture, installation and commissioning of reactor equipment including safety systems. I still fail to understand the hysteria that this subject generates. I suppose a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Why do people think we have so many wind turbines? The obvious answer is because we subsidise this inefficient intermittent form of energy generation and the companies involved make lots of money. Cast iron guarantees don’t exist the best we can do is to use our ingenuity to achieve desirable outcomes.

The Red Flag said...

anon - it harps back to what I said above. People aren't bothered how the electricity is made, they are just bothered about the implications of a mistake.

A massive mistake with a gas-fired station would not involve the evacuation of Anglesey. A relatively minor one with a nuclear station would. Fukushioma for example has only suffered some small conatainment issues, minor leakage and a very very partial meltdown in one of the cores. How long will it be before the evacuees can return home?

In some respects if Fukushima had suffered a catastrophic failure people might not be so bothered. It's the fact that this is relatively minor yet has resulted in an exclusion zone as big as Anglesey that has got people wondering.

Anonymous said...

@anon 09:45

I'm anon 23:16 from the day before.

Please don't take these comments personally, there's nothing you can do about it. There's plenty the industry high-ups could do about it, if they wanted more support from the public.

I too have been around the nuclear industry for decades (not full time, but occasionally), although not for as long as your good self. Mostly I work in and around high availability computer systems, often safety-critical systems. My university degree was physics, so this isn't entirely foreign territory to me.

As such, I have no big problem in general with the technology or the technologists, though as RF notes, the exclusion zones etc don't inspire confidence even if they are (for now) purely a precautionary measure.

I do have a BIG problem with the ongoing misinformation and sleight of hand from the industry high-ups and lobbyists.

For example, as mentioned yesterday, the strange story about British enrichment centrifuges having no weapons use and near-identical Iranian centrifuges being a major nuclear weapons proliferation issue.

There are plenty of other similar examples of misinformation too. E.g. the flask-impact PR exercise where a railway locomotive was driven into a fuel flask, with negligible damage. Then it later emerged that the most massive bit of the locomotive, the actual engine, had been unbolted from the loco chassis, presumably to soften the impact. Not nice, chaps. Don't treat the public like fools, you WILL get caught out, and you (or your industry) WILL pay the price.

If you're in the industry and aware of safety considerations, you'll hopefully understand the traditional reluctance to let computers get involved in controlling the reactor and critical ancillaries.

You may be aware of the long-standing European regulatory requirement to have two entirely separate systems for operational control and for safety/shutdown, so that a problem in one does not compromise the other. There are similar requirements in other industries where lives may be at stake (eg oil rig safety shutdown systems).

You may or may not be aware that one of the many snags holding up the new EPR at Olkiluoto in Finland is that the requirement for two separate systems was ignored, and (entirely predictably) the regulatory folks were not happy.

I've not checked the picture recently, but I personally do not know anyone in the safety-critical systems world OUTSIDE the nuclear power sector who would find a single integrated operational and safety system acceptable. A bit strange, no?

Then there are the idiots like Lewis Page at tech website The Register, whose Fukushima coverage was so bad that the industry should have silenced him for their own good.

From my point of view, my position of scepticism is about trust in the industry. It's not run by engineers any more. Even if it was, although I'd be happier with the industry, maybe it wouldn't be price competitive as an energy supplier; it certainly wouldn't be as profitable.

RIchard.Sletzer said...

ANON - why not give yourself a nom-de-plume? - it makes it so much easier to follow the track of a discussion.

The story about the locomotive in the famous crash test is new to me. Presumably though - inertia being what it is - a few unfastened bolts wouldn't have made a lot of difference? All of the bits of the locomotive - bolted together or not - were hurtling towards the container at the same speed.

The issue for Anglesey is whether the island would be better off, or not, with a nuclear power station on it. With prevailing westerlies any radioactive contamination would probably not affect Anglesey that much but would blow over to Liverpool. whinging Liverpudlians something else to complain about for a change.

Groundhog said...

Richard Sletzer....

would these be the same whingeing Liverpudlians who open up their excellent hospitals to the North Wales population due to the failure of our own Welsh Govt to provide adequate medical care?

Anonymous said...

Richard Sletzer?

Is this a troll? Or is there a Sletzer & a Seltzer

Prometheuswrites said...

I don't believe anyone any longer as far as nuclear power safety claims go.

However my scepticism reaches maximium levels when it's a private for profit industry telling me it's all OK, when patently it's not, (as far as safety and transparency about safety goes).

If there's anything that we all should have learned these past three years since the 'great recession' it's that banks, politicians, multi-national privatised companies and public servants who write their own cheques for their own salaries are (more often than not) inveterate liars (including a large measure of self-deception) who will sell their grandmothers and YOUR children into penury, ignorance and ill-health if there's a chance of lining their own pockets.

If you're one of those who subcribe to a 'dog eat dog' world - well you may be eating dog sooner than you think - and if you think I'm having a moment of insanity then I suggest you listen to last nights edition of 'Hard Talk' on the BBC world service - straight from the mouth of Jim Rogers, one of those who holds the purse strings:

Now THERES an argument for ensuring that Anglesey is self-sufficient in food and water.

"There's a storm coming in ...."

Anonymous said...

If we had a melt-down scenario on the Island, what measures are in place to evacuate the Island?

RS's notion that prevailing Westerlies would dump the fall-out on Liverpool is not entirely true.

Anglesey has prevailing South-Westerlies driven by Atlantic Low Pressure Weather Fronts and without a front pushing in it can blow from any direction.

Anonymous said...

@Richard 18:10

Sadly, I'm staying anon, despite the possible confusion - I prefer readers and contributors to focus on the message rather than the messenger.

"a few unfastened bolts wouldn't have made a lot of difference?"

Ask someone with A-level knowledge of physics, or of car safety features design.

It goes like this.

With the whole locomotive as one solid lump, all the kinetic energy of the loco has to be dealt with by the flask at the same time, very quickly. That's not easy.

With the engine unbolted, the flask doesn't have to stop the engine as quickly as it stops the loco exterior. The unbolted engine carries on moving inside the exterior. Not for long, and not very far, but for long enough to reduce the initial impact on the flask, and for some energy to be absorbed in the locomotive that would otherwise have needed to be absorbed by the flask.

Think crumple zones in ordinary cars. Same basic principle - dissipating the energy more gradually leaves the contents safer, whether the contents are people in a car, or nuclear fuel in a flask.

If anyone wants to disagree or to chip in with a better explanation, feel free. Also, feel free to reuse this description elsewhere.

It doesn't matter if my explanation isn't 100% clear or even 100% accurate or isn't the real reason why the engine was unbolted.

Technology aside, just ask yourself why they unbolted the engine.

The point is that the nuclear PR people did something which was not necessary, which they could not justify when challenged, and which yet again leaves their industry open to mistrust.

I *assume* they did it to guarantee that the public saw a "successful" PR exercise, with no damage to the flask. With the engine unbolted they left themselves open to accusations that the exercise was unrepresentative.

Getting the idea yet?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if HM Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations has considered the threat of a Tsunami rippling out from Iceland.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said... @ 22 May 2011 10:28
"If we had a melt-down scenario on the Island, what measures are in place to evacuate the Island?"

It wouldn't have to be somethng as serious as a meltdown to evacuate most of not all of the island. A fairly minor leak from the core would suffice.

Anonymous said...

This is a good story.

It just goes to illustrate that where nuclear is concerned the government couldn't really care less about what the local population think anywhere. In this case 98% voted against a nuclear waste site in their back yard and Pickles promptly over-ruled them and it's going ahead.

Bizarre really concerning the government banged on in it's pre-election drivel that it would listen to local people.

Anonymous said...

The Peterborough low level nuclear waste site will be in an insecure tip (no fence proposed) which will be operated by a company that already has a conviction for breaking waste disposal rules, from an industry that isn't exactly famous for its record of safe and honest record-keeping.

That's the Millionaire's Cabinet's idea of 'localism': "not in our locality, mate".

You really couldn't make it up.

The Red Flag said...

Lib Dems will oppose the 'Carbon Floor Tax' next week. (The Carbon Flor Tax is a back door subsidy that basically forces up the price of non-nuclear electricity to the same price as nuclear to give the illusion that nuclear doesn't cost more).

Lib Dems claim that the Carbon Floor Tax is in flagrant breach of the coalition agreement.