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Japan report says UK nuclear should not be curtailed

The UK should not curtail its nuclear operations following the Japanese crisis, according to chief nuclear inspector Mike Weightman’s interim report on the events at Fukushima Dai-ichi.

Weightman stated that the direct causes of the nuclear accident − a magnitude 9 earthquake and associated 14m high tsunami − are far beyond the most extreme events the UK could expect to experience.

In this respect he concluded there is no reason for curtailing the operation of nuclear power plants or other nuclear facilities in the UK.

He also said that is not necessary to make immediate safety improvements to operating nuclear reactors in the UK.

But Weightman noted that severe events can occur from other causes, and that learning from such events is fundamental to the robustness of the UK’s nuclear safety arrangements.

Weightman found that the UK has displayed a strong safety culture in its response to Fukushima and current safety measures are adequate.

Accordingly, Weightman’s 26 recommendations in the report require the review of a wide range of nuclear safety matters, including:

  • international and national emergency response arrangements
  • public contingency planning
  • communications and the review of flooding studies
  • site & plant layouts
  • electricity & cooling supplies
  • multi reactor site considerations
  • spent fuel strategies
  • dealing with prolonged accidents

Huhne said the interim report does not identify any implications for the strategic siting assessment of new reactors and said he does not believe the final report will either.

Energy secretary Chris Huhne today laid the interim report before parliament. The final report is due in September.

“From my discussions with Dr. Weightman I see no reason why we should not proceed with our current policy: namely that nuclear should be part of the future energy mix in the future as it is today,” he said.

“The Chief Nuclear Inspector has made clear the differences between the Japan and the UK. We do not use the same reactor types, and do not plan to in future.

“We also do not expect to experience the extreme natural events seen in Japan.

“Subject to careful consideration of the detail of Dr Weightman’s interim report, I intend to bring forward for ratification as soon as possible the Energy National Policy Statements.”

These will include a list of potential sites for nuclear power stations.

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