herald

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Nuclear plant could be a 'Chernobyl on steroids', says expert

Fukushima nuclear power plant
Fukushima nuclear power plant

A nuclear expert has warned that the design of proposed new nuclear reactors in Cumbria could turn the region into "Chernobyl on steroids" in the event of an accident.

Expert Arnie Gundersen said a leak from one of the proposed reactors would be devastating.

The possibility of radioactive fallout being blown across the Irish Sea in the event of a serious accident in Cumbria power plants has long been a source of concern in Ireland.

The warning by Mr Gundersen about the design of three proposed new reactors, in the region which contains the Sellafield nuclear plant, has sparked fresh fears.

The American nuclear expert, who was CNN's resident expert during the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011, said the proposed AP1000 reactors were susceptible to leaks.

If there was such a leak, it would be worse than Fukushima and the population within 50 miles of the plant would have to be evacuated, he said.

The proposed nuclear expansion project is going through an approval process with Britain's Office for Nuclear Regulation.

Mr Gundersen's "Chernobyl on steroids" remark referred to the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl that killed 28 workers within four months and led to the permanent evacuation of surrounding towns.

A spokesperson for the ONR said the nuclear regulator received revised plans from the makers, Westinghouse, for 51 outstanding issues which would have to be resolved.

Attracta Ui Bhroin of An Taisce, the national trust for Ireland, said a number of nuclear plants are proposed on the west coast of the UK facing Ireland.

"An Taisce strongly urges the Irish government to avail of their right under an EU Directive to require public consultation with the UK," Ms Ui Bhroin said.

Accidents

"In that way, the interests and concerns of the Irish public will be heard. We appreciate the UK intends to operate the plants safely, but accidents by their very nature are when plans go wrong or the unforeseen happens."

A nuclear accident affecting Ireland would impact on food, tourism, and "may impact the health of our citizens if not adequately prepared for", she said.

A Westinghouse spokesperson said the reactor design offers unequalled safety through innovative passive safety systems and proven technologies.

aokeeffe@herald.ie

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