The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) have formally supported and endorsed an independent assessment of the Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactor that outlines a number of serious safety concerns.
The independent report was drafted by Pete Roche, the NFLA Scotland Policy Advisor and an independent consultant on nuclear policy. It was commissioned by the Cumbrian NGO Radiation Free Lakeland. With the author and group’s permission, it has been developed into a NFLA New Nuclear Monitor and the NFLA have formally submitted their support of the report to the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR). (1)
The AP1000 reactor design is currently going through an extensive ‘Generic Design Assessment’ (GDA) by the ONR. Yesterday, the ONR were reported as saying that the design still has a number of areas of concern and the GDA is unlikely to be concluded by the planned process end date of late March 2017. (2) The design is being taken up by Westinghouse’s owner Toshiba, who as part of the NuGen consortium with Engie, is proposing to build three new nuclear AP1000 reactors at the Sellafield Moorside site.
The key conclusions of this detailed report include:
- The AP1000 advanced passive nuclear reactor design has a weaker containment, and fewer back-up safety systems, than current reactor designs.
- Its so-called ‘advanced passive’ design makes the reactor particularly vulnerable to a very large release of radioactivity following an accident if there were just a small failure in the steel containment vessel, due to what is known as the chimney effect. (3)
- A thorough review of the AP1000 design in the light of the Japanese accident at Fukushima has shown that the containment is dangerously close to exceeding the maximum post accident pressure that it could withstand. Several ways in which the AP1000 design could lose the ability to cool the reactors in an emergency have been identified, and Fukushima has shown that a containment breach is possible, and that arrangements for keeping the spent fuel ponds cool are inadequate.
- The AP1000 reactor design is therefore not fit for purpose and so should be refused a Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) and Statement of Design Acceptability (SDA) by the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency.
NFLA call on the ONR and Environment Agency to carefully consider in full this independent report and continue to rigorously challenge Westinghouse over what appears to the NFLA to be critical safety failings. On the basis of this independent report, NFLA also agree that the AP1000 reactor design looks not fit for purpose and should not be approved by the nuclear regulatory agencies in March 2017.
Given the close proximity with which these proposed nuclear reactors will be to the existing Sellafield legacy site – parts of which are noted already as an ‘intolerable risk’ by the nuclear regulators – it is essential that close scrutiny of the technical issues with the AP1000 should take place.
NFLA Steering Committee Chair Councillor Ernie Galsworthy said:
I welcome this detailed report on the safety issues of the AP1000 reactor and hope the report will be carefully considered by the nuclear regulatory agencies. From reading this report it is clear to me that there are significant and alarming problems with this reactor design that could lead to catastrophic damage in the event of a serious accident. NFLA calls on the regulator to refuse design acceptance for the AP1000 as it currently stands. It is currently too big a risk for the people of Cumbria and for communities across both sides of the Irish Sea coast to go ahead with it.”
Report author Pete Roche said:
Experience gained by trying to build these reactors in the US and China on time and budget shows that they are no better than the disastrous French EPR reactor-type proposed for Hinkley Point and Sizewell. Yet the design attempts to make savings by reducing all sorts of safety-related equipment and relying on so-called natural processes. It’s about time that the ONR proved that it does have teeth after all and refused these reactors a license to be built in the UK.”
For more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on either 00 44 (0)161 234 3244 or 00 44 (0)7771 930196. The NFLA Secretary can put you in touch with the report author.
Notes for editors:
(1) New Nuclear Monitor 44, which profiles the report, is attached with this media release and can be found on the NFLA website http://www.nuclearpolicy.info
(2) World Nuclear News, 28th December 2016
(3) For more information on the ‘chimney effect’ go to:
Independent 16th March 2015 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/nuclear-expert-arnie-gundersen-warns-of-chernobyl-on-steroids-risk-in-uk-from-proposed-cumbria-plant-10109930.html
Fairewinds 19th March 2015 http://www.fairewinds.org/demystify/fairewinds-nuke-truth-at-house-of-commons?rq=Chernobyl%20on%20Steroids