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ONR gives details of serious incident at Heysham 1 nuclear power station

01 June 2015

In its quarterly statement on serious incidents at nuclear installations in Britain, the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has given details of a major CO2 leak on 16 March 2015 at EDF’s Heysham 1 nuclear power station in Lancashire. There was no immediate nuclear safety or radiological risk as a result of the event, the ONR said, but it nevertheless had serious implications.

Stock image
Stock image

The incident was declared following the release to atmosphere of approximately 30 tonnes of clean Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from a failed pipe.

There was no immediate nuclear safety or radiological risk as a result of the event, but the ONR said it highlighted NGL’s failure to adequately maintain its Carbon Dioxide storage and distribution system, which provides the coolant gas for the Heysham 1 reactors.  

“Although no one was injured, CO2 is a substance that can be hazardous to health and the quantities released could have had serious implications if workers had been in the vicinity, including potential fatalities. ONR immediately commenced an investigation into the event and, on 25 March 2015, served an Improvement Notice on NGL for its failure to maintain its Carbon Dioxide storage and distribution plant at Heysham 1 power station. The improvements are required by 30 September 2015 and before the CO2 plant is allowed to return to service.”

The two reactors remained operational at steady load during the event and continue to operate safely, the ONR said.

This was the only incident in the first quarter of 2015 that met Ministerial Reporting Criteria (MRC). These  are dangerous occurrences reportable under the Nuclear Installations (Dangerous Occurrences) Regulations 1965; that is to say-any occurrence on a licensed site involving the emission of ionising radiations or the release of radioactive or toxic substances in such circumstances as to cause or be likely to cause the death of, or serious injury to the health of, persons on the site at the time of the occurrence.

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