Nuclear sites still subject to same inspectors

Joining the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate is probably the best guarantee there is of a job for life - or longer. "We still visit sites which have shut down their reactors but are in the process of decommissioning them," said a spokesman yesterday. "The NII can and will check the site until it poses no radiological threat. That can take up to 135 years."

The 160 inspectors and 10 support staff of the NII (which is part of the Health and Safety Executive) take their long-lasting task very seriously. With 41 generating reactors and a host of other sites - such as British Nuclear Fuels' reprocessing plant at Sellafield, and the Royal Navy's nuclear submarine repair docks at Rosyth and Devonport - there is no shortage of work. The prime concern is the safe operation of the sites, to minimise the risk to workers and the rest of the population.

To that end, several inspectors are assigned to particular sites, where they oversee procedures full-time; others perform random inspections to ensure that procedures are complied with. "We can turn up in the middle of the night and demand to see the control room," said the spokesman. "Though, of course, you can never really make a surprise visit to a nuclear power station, because of the security surrounding it. But it's the next best thing."

Though inspectors can demand the immediate shutdown of a reactor or site, they usually wave that big stick at site operators while speaking softly to them about the advantages of making that decision themselves. British Energy's unpublicised stoppage at two of its stations was not done directly at the NII's request. But it is clear that if the work now being carried out had gone undone, the NII would have been forceful.

The inspectorate has shown its willingness to prosecute site operators. BNFL has been fined repeatedly for excessive discharges and violating safety rules. And last September, Nuclear Electric was fined pounds 250,000, with pounds 138,000 costs, for an incident at the Wylfa Magnox power station [which is not included in the privatisation] in Anglesey. Staff there took nine hours to shut down the reactor following an accident to its coolant system.

"I think it was sufficient to sting the industry into taking very good note of the implications," said Bill Ross, deputy chief inspector of the NII, afterwards. And attitudes among inspectors will not be changed by privatisation, said a spokesman: "It's not a question of attitude, anyway," he said. "It's about standards."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk