Design flaws in new nuclear reactors 'could lead to UK's Chernobyl'

By staff writers
March 9, 2010

Local authorities have written to the nuclear watchdog following new concerns over the design safety of nuclear reactors planned for the UK and of fears about a Chernobyl-type accident.

Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) sent a letter today (9 March) to the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) following the emergence of new allegations over the safety of the proposed European Pressurised Reactor (EPR).

The French nuclear group ‘Sortir du Nucleaire’ (French Network for Nuclear Phase-out) raised concerns in a press release yesterday over the safety of the proposed European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) design by EDF /Areva, which will be used to build a number of nuclear reactors in the UK.

In a press release issued on the 8th March, Sortir de Nucleaire said that they had received documents from an insider working in EDF. Sortir de Nucleaire claims that they show that "the design of the EPR presents a serious risk of a major nuclear accident - a risk deliberately taken by EDF to increase its profitability.”

It further claims that the reactor is “potentially vulnerable to a situation which could have uncontrollable consequences.”

Experts are quoted in the press release warning that some operating modes could cause the EPR reactor to explode. These operating modes are mainly related to an ‘objective of economic efficiency’, requiring the power of the reactor to adapt to electricity demand.

They say that the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) has been kept in the dark about the issues.

"So the EPR reactor design seems to increase the risk of a Chernobyl-type accident, which would lead to the destruction of the confinement and mass dispersion of radionuclides in the atmosphere” the experts are quoted as saying.

The NFLA are asking the NII to look at the leaked documents and discuss the matter with the French nuclear regulator ASN to clarify the strength of the allegations and whether this puts into doubt approval for the EPR design.

The NFLA Chair, Bailie George Regan, said: "I am greatly concerned by the suggestion that the EDF EPR design could be seriously flawed.

"We are writing to the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate as a matter of urgency to ask them to follow up these very serious allegations and check the accuracy of them. With the concerns also over the AP1000 design it confirms to me that we could be taking some very serious risks if we go ahead with a new nuclear build programme in the UK.

"Unless these reports can be seriously countered and dismissed I am of the view that we should not go for nuclear power but choose safe, sustainable renewable energy alternatives.”


Keywords:nuclear power
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