Sweden closes nuclear plants over safety fears

Posted by bex — 4 August 2006 at 8:00am - Comments
forsmark nuclear power plant in Sweden

forsmark nuclear power plant in Sweden

"It was pure luck there wasn't a meltdown," said a former director of Forsmark nuclear power plant after a serious incident at that plant last week. Now Sweden has shut down four of its 10 nuclear plants after faults were discovered. And a generator failure like Sweden's could easily happen in the UK.

The closure of the Swedish plants has removed at a stroke roughly 20 percent of Sweden's electricity supply. Emergency power systems to the Forsmark plant failed for 20 minutes during a power cut. If power was not restored there could have been a major incident within hours.

A former director of the Forsmark plant said, "It was pure luck that there was not a meltdown. Since the electricity supply from the network didn't work as it should have, it could have been a catastrophe."

It appears that the fault in the backup power systems originates from new equipment installed in 1993. Not exactly reassuring that faulty equipment, vital for preventing a meltdown, went undetected for 13 years. The same equipment now uncovered to be faulty is also installed on other nuclear power plants in other countries. Germany is already investigating if the same fault affects its nuclear plants. In the UK, a generator failure like Sweden's could easily happen - and the result could be a meltdown in the reactor core. Such a meltdown would probably be contained like at Three Mile Island but in a worst case scenario radioactive iodine could be spread throughout Scandianavia, Germany and possibly to other parts of Europe.

Power cuts
Nuclear industry propaganda has been saying that we need nuclear power to prevent future power cuts. But actually current nuclear plants are vulnerable to power cuts. All nuclear plants need power to control them. If mains power is lost, back up power is required to control the reactor. This power is supplied by back up generators but there have been many instances where these generators have been found to be faulty or susceptible to storms or floods. This has caused the temporary closures of nuclear plants in the US and elsewhere.

Cut the power to a single wind or solar farm and while they will stop generating electricity for the grid at least it won't threaten to melt down. Nuclear power relies on old, inefficient centralised power grids that are vulnerable to power cuts. Clean renewable energy sources help create more efficient decentralised power where it is generated much closer to where it is used. When the going gets hot, nuclear plants stop running

The problems with Swedish nuclear plants come hot on the heels of problems with nuclear power plants in Europe due to the hot dry summer. Two nuclear plants in Germany recently had to reduce output due to the lack of sufficient water for cooling in rivers. If the drought continues many nuclear plants that rely on rivers for cooling water will have to reduce output or shut down.

Luckily Sweden plans to phase out its nuclear power plants in the coming years. Unfortunately a small minority of other European countries like France, Finland and the UK seem determined to rely on dangerous, dirty and expensive nuclear power that can fail dangerously during a power cut and be shut down by droughts.

Recent events expose industry lies about nuclear being a reliable energy source.

A combination of safe, renewable energy and energy efficiency measures are the only sane solution for power generation.

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