Britain's nuclear facilities declared safe despite Fukushima alert
There were 38 areas where the industry and regulators could learn lessons from the Japanese disaster
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Wednesday 12 October 2011
Britain's chief nuclear inspector has found no significant safety weaknesses in the UK's nuclear facilities following his detailed analysis of the Fukushima disaster in Japan which led to a 20-km (12-mile) evacuation zone around the stricken Japanese reactors.
Mike Weightman, HM Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations and head of the Office of Nuclear Regulation, said there were lessons to be learned from Fukushima but that the fundamental safety rules governing Britain's nuclear power facilities are still sound.
"I remain confident that nuclear facilities in the UK continue to be safe to operate and I remain confident in the robustness of the nuclear safety regime in the UK," Dr Weightman said.
"I remain confident that our UK nuclear facilities have no fundamental safety weaknesses. The Office for Nuclear Regulation already requires protection of nuclear sites against the worst-case scenarios that are predictable for the UK," he said.
"But we are not complacent. Our philosophy is one of continuous improvement. No matter how high our standards, the quest for improvement must never stop. We will ensure lessons are learned from Fukushima," he added.
A report by the chief inspector into the implications for the UK of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami last March found that there were 38 areas where the Government, industry and its regulators could learn safety lessons.
The reactors at Fukushima-1 safely shut down after the initial magnitude-9 earthquake on 11 March but the critical cooling system failed after a 14-metre tsunami later inundated the site.
"A magnitude-9 earthquake and the associated 14m-high tsunami, are far beyond the most extreme natural events that the UK would be expected to experience," the chief inspector's report says.
However, Paul Dorfman of Warwick University and a member of the academic group NuclearConsult, said that many of Britain's nuclear facilities are built near the coast and are vulnerable to flooding. Dr Dorfman said the chief inspector's statement saying that are no fundamental safety weaknesses in UK nuclear facilities is a "clear abrogation of regulatory responsibility".
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