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