The Sizewell A nuclear power station in Suffolk hasn’t produced electricity since December 2006. Since then the plant has been going through a lengthy decommissioning period. However, it has come to light this week that in January of 2007, the Sizewell A plant had leaked around 40,000 gallons of radioactive water from its cooling ponds.
The cooling pond’s water level had dropped by over a foot, and it wasn’t until someone involved in decommissioning the nuclear power station saw leaking water in the laundry room that the problem was recognised. A new alarm system was in place at the time to check the level of the cooling ponds, but it hadn’t been tested and didn’t go off. Even if it had gone off, staff based at the nuclear power plant had been ignoring alarms from another incident for the last two days and possibly wouldn’t have taken any notice anyway.
All this information was brought to the attention of the public through the freedom of information act, where the HM Nuclear Installation Inspectorate released a report about the incident.
The report also stated that had the leaking not been noticed, the level of water in the cooling ponds could have decreased enough to expose the nuclear fuel rods which could have set fire and exploded sending radioactive material into the surrounding area.
Magnox South, who own the nuclear power plant stated that the incident would not have done any significant damage to the environment. As the UK is seeking to roll out a massive plan for nuclear power stations, incidents like this are bound to increase opposition and hostility towards their construction in the future.