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Operations at nuclear power plant suspended

10 July 2009

On the 29th June, a safety incident at Dungeness B nuclear power station, forced the suspension of operations in a section of a plant. EDF Energy, which own the nuclear power station in Kent, said that no radiation was released and members of the public were not in danger.

Dungeness B nuclear power station
Dungeness B nuclear power station

While connecting a new fuel stringer to a fuel plug unit, it became apparent that the coupling had not latched correctly and a piece of rubber had become trapped between the spring collet assembly and the neutron scatter plug, threatening the integrity of the connection.

Operations in the fuel building at the power station in southeast England ceased immediately and as part of the recovery process, foam was injected under the fuel assembly. But a subsequent analysis confirmed that the foam used- polyurethane, could act as a moderator, and thus challenge the applicable criticality safety certificates.

The load has since been secured by fitting clamps and plant engineers are working on a plan to return the fuel handling equipment to full service safely. British Energy is investigating the cause of the event with UK nuclear safety authorities.

The incident has provisionally been rated level 2 on the seven-tier International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, meaning that it may have highlighted significant failures in safety provisions but had no off-site impact. There are typically just one or two similar incidents across all of Britain's nuclear power stations in a year. The Chernobyl disaster that killed 56 people in Ukraine in 1986 is the only recorded level seven event.

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