Welsh former nuclear station hit by blaze

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Workers were evacuated from a former nuclear power station yesterday after a spark from a welding torch started a fire.

Workers were evacuated from a former nuclear power station yesterday after a spark from a welding torch started a fire.

Managers said the electrical blaze at the Trawsfynydd plant run by British Nuclear Fuels near Dolgellau in Snowdonia, north Wales, did not result in any radioactive contamination.

Firefighters were called to the Magnox plant, which is in the process of being decommissioned, shortly after 1pm and supervised the evacuation of 150 staff.

A spokesman for BNFL said: "Workmen were carrying out work on a cable duct between the two reactor halls, which are being decommissioned.

"A stray spark got loose and ended up coming into contact with one of the cables.

"There was some thick black smoke but it was not a serious fire and the fire brigade was called out as a standard procedure. There were no casualties and no radioactive material was involved."

North Wales Fire Brigade said the blaze was being treated as an on-site incident rather than a nuclear one and that the evacuation had taken place as a "routine precaution".

The Trawsfynydd plant, which was one of the first generation of Magnox power stations and came into operation in 1965, was closed down in 1993.

Specialist demolition experts have been working to dismantle the site for the last seven years.

Yesterday's fire follows an incident last year when six workers were found to have inhaled plutonium dust while scraping the walls of a concrete cooling pond for spent nuclear fuel at the station.

The men were exposed after particles filtered through the protective body suits and face masks they were wearing to conduct the clean-up.

Tests on the workers' urine found they had ingested caesium and plutonium during the work in June last year. BNFL said that the level of exposure was within safety limits.

But other nuclear specialists said the danger was far greater. "BNFL's models for analysing the radioactive dose are totally wrong", said Chris Busby, of the European Committee on Radiation Risks.

"They dilute the dose across the body but the material is absorbed into the lung and tracheo-bronchial lymph nodes where it gives an enormously high dose to a very small amount of tissue," he said.

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