UK nuclear: safety first

The British nuclear industry has an ideology of continuous improvement and putting safety first. Speaking at the Nuclear Industry Association’s New Build Conference 2011, safety was the word on HM […]

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By Tom Gibson

The British nuclear industry has an ideology of continuous improvement and putting safety first. Speaking at the Nuclear Industry Association’s New Build Conference 2011, safety was the word on HM Chief Nuclear Inspector Dr Mike Weightman’s lips: “We can never get complacent.”

Speaking to delegates he stressed his concern by his findings in Japan: “Fukushima had a 3.1m tide protection. In 2002 a Tepco review suggested one of 5.7m. Sizewell B (in the UK) has a 10m wall, but no risk of tsunami.”

The inspector’s interim report of Fukushima in May showed that the UK was trusted as a safe operator of nuclear power. In the report lies 26 recommendations for improvement, signalling the emphasis on safety-first: “I consider it an absolute priority that the regulators, industry and Government act responsibly to learn from the 26 recommendations in the report.”

When asked about live-testing nuclear plants in the UK, Dr Weightman admitted putting our plants through dangerous scenarios needed more attention.