Sweden closes nuclear plants over safety fears

Feature story - 4 August, 2006
Sweden has shut down four of its 10 nuclear plants after faults were discovered. A major fault was discovered after a serious incident at the Forsmark nuclear power station, a former director of the plant later said: "it was pure luck there wasn't a meltdown."

The Forsmark nuclear power plant. The plant suffered a serious safety incident and has been shut down for investigation.

The closure of the Swedish plants has removed at a stroke roughly 20percent of Sweden's electricity supply. Emergency power systems to theForsmark plant failed for 20 minutes during a power cut. If power wasnot restored there could have been a major incident within hours.

A former director of the Forsmark plant said, "It was pure luck thatthere was not a meltdown. Since the electricity supply from the networkdidn't work as it should have, it could have been a catastrophe."

It appears that the fault in the backup power systems originates fromnew equipment installed in 1993. Not exactly reassuring that faultyequipment, vital for preventing a meltdown, went undetected for 13years. The same equipment now uncovered to be faulty is also installedon other nuclear power plants in other countries. Germany is alreadyinvestigating if the same fault affects its nuclear plants.

Power cuts

Nuclear industry propaganda has been saying that we need nuclear powerto prevent future power cuts. But actually current nuclear plants arevulnerable to power cuts. All nuclear plants need power to controlthem. If mains power is lost, back up power is required to control thereactor. This power is supplied by back up generators but there havebeen many instances where these generators have been found to be faultyor susceptible to storms or floods. This has caused the temporaryclosures of nuclear plants in the US and elsewhere.

Cut the power to a single wind or solar farm and while they will stopgenerating electricity for the grid at least it won't threaten to meltdown. Nuclear power relies on old, inefficient centralised power gridsthat are vulnerable to power cuts. Clean renewable energy sources helpcreate more efficient decentralised power where it is generated muchcloser to where it is used.

When the going gets hot, nuclear plants stop running

The problems with Swedish nuclear plants come hot on the heels ofproblems with nuclear power plants in Europe due to the hot dry summer.Two nuclear plants in Germany recently had to reduce output due to thelack of sufficient water for cooling in rivers. If the droughtcontinues many nuclear plants that rely on rivers for cooling waterwill have to reduce output or shut down.

Luckily Sweden plans to phase out its nuclear power plants in thecoming years. Unfortunately a small minority of other Europeancountries like France, Finland and the UK seem determined to rely ondangerous, dirty and expensive nuclear power that can fail dangerouslyduring a power cut and be shut down by droughts.

Recent events expose industry lies about nuclear being a reliable energy source.

A combination of safe, renewable energy and energy efficiency measures are the only sanesolution for power generation.

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