40% of Sweden's nuclear reactors down after incident

Greenpeace calls for immediate investigation of all nuclear reactors

Press release - 3 August, 2006
Four of Sweden's ten nuclear power plants have been closed after an investigation by the Swedish nuclear regulator amid severe safety concerns following an incident in one of the reactors last week. The closed reactors have potential problems with failing power backup systems, which can cause a catastrophic meltdown if the main power supply to the reactor is interrupted, as happened at the Forsmkark-1 reactor last week.

"The problem is much wider than 4 reactors in Sweden, as we are discovering similar incidents in several countries in different reactor types - a global investigation of all 443 power reactors is urgently needed," said Jan Vande Putte, Greenpeace International nuclear campaigner.  "A power blackout such as happened in the US and Canada in 2003 - forcing more than 20 reactors to close

-  can very easily lead to a catastrophic reactor meltdown, with these failing backup systems. It's a real and present threat."

In a report published last year, Greenpeace highlighted the risks associated to these backup systems and the widespread and frequent problems they are having in the US and Germany (1).  We furthermore discovered that a similar incident took place in the Belgian reactor Tihange 2 on July 4th 2005, where 2 out of 3 power backup systems failed during a test (2). In Finland, the nuclear regulator STUK is arguing that similar problems had been resolved in 2 reactors. It however remains unclear if the new systems would have properly functioned in an emergency situation.

A failing power backup system can cause a reactor meltdown after a grid cut-off or a blackout. The operator then loses instrumentation and control over the reactor, which leads to the inability to cool the core, and lead to a meltdown.

A report by the US nuclear authority NRC, revealed that 50% of all meltdown scenarios are initiated by plant blackout (1).

"Nuclear power is not only inherently dangerous, but also unreliable." Van de  Putte concluded.  "After recent power supply problems during the European heat- wave, it's now even clearer that nuclear reactors and their backup systems simply cannot be relied upon, nor considered safe. A combination of safe, renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency measures are the only sane solution for power generation and energy security."

Other contacts: Jan Vande Putte, Greenpeace International: mobile + 32 49616 1584Martina Krueger, Greenpeace Sweden: mobile +46-(0)70-550 2913

Notes: (1) HIRSCH, Helmut, Nuclear Reactor Hazards Report. p.121.http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/nuclearreactorhazards(2) AVN, annual report 2005 p. 23. http://www.avnuclear.be/avn/anrep2005.pdf

Exp. contact date: 2006-08-30 00:00:00