Safety fears after reactor emergency

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The Independent Online
An inquiry has been launched at two of Britain's most modern nuclear power stations after the first emergency shutdown at a Lancashire power station.

There had been 150 successful refuellings at the Heysham station in Lancashire but, on 29January, a 7-ton fuel rod became stuck in the reactor core, leading to the assembly jamming and the shutdown.

Now Nuclear Electric has installed a team of engineers to look at the safety at Heysham and the Scottish station Torness, which has the same design. The station in Lancashire shut down for 18 days and was only permitted by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate to stay open on the condition that Nuclear Electric shut down the reactor before refuelling.

Heysham is one of seven gas-cooled reactors to be privatised this summer. Details of the January incident had been kept quiet until last night. but Nuclear Electric and Scottish Electric have rushed to head off safety and economic concernsbefore the summer sell-off.

A Nuclear Electric spokes- man said: "We have refuelled over 150 times at Heysham and this is the first time we have had a problem. This indicates it's a one-off problem rather than a design fault."