Fire fighter tackle fire at Kruemmel nuclear plant in Germany. Despite safety risks, plant operators have lobbied to postpone the shut down of many old nuclear plants.
Update, 16 July 2007:
There has been a fire and a leak in Japan, at the world's
largest nuclear power plant.
Withthe nuclear industry's false assurances of safety and
reliabilityexposed, German chancellor Merkel announced Germany
would not revisenor abandon the plan for nuclear-phase out by
As in manyother countries, nuclear energy companies are lobbying
theGerman government to keep old, dangerous reactors open for
longer. Butit was recent events that highlighted the growing
nuclear risks. Lessthan a week beforethe German energy summit a
fire broke out at Kruemmel nuclear stationand another one in
Brunsbuttel suffered an emergency shut down due totechnical
failure. Also, there was a similar UK accident in May where afire
shut down an old reactor at Oldbury.
In many countries most nuclear plants are reaching the end of
theirplanned life spans of 25-30 years. Most energy companies who
operatethe plants are pushing to extend operations many years
beyond the timethe plants were originally planned to close. This
has serious safety implications. Not onlyare older reactors prone
to all kinds of failures, like any old,complex machines, but many
of their crucial components are physicallyloosing their ability to
withstand extreme situations that may occurduring an accident. For
example the reactor vessel, at the very heart of theplant and key
for nuclear safety, gets more and more brittle overtime due to
Compromising on safety
While anold car that fails a safety test is taken off the road,
an old nuclearplant that fails safety tests tends to get patched up
and given alicense to continue working, despite the fact a serious
accident couldthreaten millions of lives. Operators claim that due
to theirgrowing experience and technical upgrades, they can run
reactors muchmore safely and reliably twenty one years after
Chernobyl. State safety inspectors buy this line and tend tobe
positive about proposals for plant life extensions.
These reactor fires were a reminder that we cannot trust
operators, and not even state regulators. Often the true scale of
theproblems are hidden. Only a week after the fire at Krummel
station itwas revealed that there was a direct nuclear risk
involved. Yet aspokesperson from plant operator Vattenfall stated
thefire "looked more dramatic than it really was"
"it affectedonly a transformer with no implication for nuclear safety"
"I always want to put ice cubes inthe
hats of those who talk about a nuclearrenaissance."
Jorma Aurela,a senior energy official in the Finnish Ministry
of Trade andIndustry.
New reactor, same problems
Thegreat hope of the nuclear industry is the showcase
EPR reactor inOlkiluoto, Finland. But even before it's close to
being finished it'sdemonstrating the familiar problems of nuclear
energy. After just twoyears of building it is 18 months behind
schedule and a massive E700million over budget. This supposed
'showcase' project has had so manysafety problems with substandard
construction that the Finnish nuclearregulator has uncovered a
series of safety "deficiencies".
Injust two years there have been multiple major problems
withconstruction of this 'bright new hope' for the nuclear industry
atOlkiluoto. First the concrete base was made of poor quality
concrete,and then the reactor vessel failed safety standards.
Cooling pipes hadto be scrapped due to bad quality steel and it was
discovered the steelcontainment lining (crucial to protect against
radiation leaks) wasfound to have almost 50 holes in the wrong
Relying on keeping old dangerous reactors going long past their
closeby date and unable to even build on new reactor without
massive delays,blowing the budget and failing minimum safety
standards. That betraysthe industry hot air of an "nuclear
renaissance" for what it really is- an industry on life support,
kept alive only by massive tax payersubsidies and putting profit
Luckily we cansecure energy supply and prevent dangerous climate
change withouthazardous nuclear power. As our
Energy Revolution scenario shows, wecan phase out existing
reactors without building new ones, and achievethe required cut in
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