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expert reaction to the final report from the Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations following the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident

The report from Dr Mike Weightman found no significant safety concerns in the UK’s nuclear programme and gave no reason to prevent the building of new nuclear reactors in the UK.

 

Prof Roger Kemp, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Lancaster University’s Engineering Department, said:

“On 11 March 2011, Japan suffered a massive earthquake and tsunami that left 15,000 dead and thousands more displaced. The combination of the earthquake and the tsunami damaged the Fukushima nuclear plant, which dominated the news for weeks and led to several thousand people being evacuated. Some of the people who stayed behind to limit the damage to the power station are likely to suffer long-term illness but the numbers killed or injured by the nuclear events are a tiny fraction of those who suffered the effects of the earthquake.

“Japan is in an earthquake zone while Britain is more than 1000 miles from the nearest edge of a tectonic plate, where severe earthquakes are likely. The magnitude 9 earthquake and the associated 14 metre high tsunami that hit Fukushima are way beyond the most extreme natural events that the UK is likely to experience. However we can learn from their experience. Probably the most important lesson is the need to keep an open and questioning mind about the risks inherent in any potentially hazardous operation.

“Accident inquiries regularly show that it is easy to become complacent, whether about the quantity of spent fuel stored in the same building as a reactor, as in Fukushima, or about the safety of fuel lines in a 30-year old aircraft, as identified by the Haddon-Cave inquiry into the Nimrod crash. The UK’s safety management procedures that require operators to undertake a regular risk assessment, rather than simply complying with a check list, is an important way of dispelling complacency. This accident has been a reminder that safety assessors must not be afraid of asking challenging and far-reaching questions, even if similar questions appear to have been answered years earlier.

“This 300-page report does not raise any fundamental reservations about the UK nuclear programme but identifies many issues that should be included in future reviews of existing and new nuclear facilities. In particular, it points to the need to consider events that might happen well outside the boundary of a nuclear plant, such as disruption of other infrastructure or supplies, rather than to concentrate exclusively on the detail of the plant itself.”

 

Dame Sue Ion, Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, said:

“Mike Weightman’s interim report earlier this year indicated that there were no reasons why the UK should not continue to run its existing stations or to continue with intentions to deploy new ones. This remains the case and reinforces the view that the future development of nuclear power in the UK can continue with the necessary regulations being in place and risk minimised.

“Lessons to be learned from the situation at Fukushima regarding back-up systems and supporting infrastructure would, as has always been the case in the UK, be incorporated into best practice going forward. Mike Weightman points out that the Industry and others have responded constructively and responsibly to the recommendations made in the interim report and instigated, where necessary, significant programmes of work. This shows an on‐going commitment to the principle of continuous improvement and the maintenance of a strong safety culture.

“Additionally the UK’s safety regime through the way the ONR Inspectors operate anticipates potential combinations of events, such as those that occurred at Fukushima‐1, and the UK consequently has a robust, structured and comprehensive methodology for identifying design basis events.

“This ‘final’ report also emphasises the issues associated with the long term management of the UK’s historic legacy sites where there are significant engineering challenges and where ‘utmost vigour and determination’ should be taken to ensure their clean up and decommissioning.

“The report as well as reinforcing the UK’s position of leadership in matters of nuclear safety has many excellent recommendations which in the spirit of continuous improvement will assure further confidence in the nuclear sector as an essential contributor to the UK’s long term energy security.”

http://www.hse.gov.uk/nuclear/fukushima/final-report.htm

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