Torness can handle tsunami

THE operator of Torness Nuclear Power Station says it has “lessons to learn” from the Fukushima crisis in Japan, but stresses that the plant near Dunbar is equipped to withstand the effects of a “one in 10,000 years earthquake”.

In a statement designed to reassure the public that safety is its number one priority at Torness, which had two significant safety “events” in September last year, EDF Energy also revealed that it has sent experts to Japan to offer assistance and support.

The latest reports on the situation in Japan predict that it will take six to nine months to stabilise the situation at Fukushima following the earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11.

Events at Fukushima have naturally raised questions and concerns about nuclear power, something EDF are well aware of, and as well as providing assistance and expertise at Fukushima they say that additional steps are also being taken here to guard against the possibility of a similar radiation leak.

EDF’s statement said: “Firstly, it is important to say that all our plants are protected against the effects of a 1 in 10,000 years earthquake.

“That means even if they were hit by the worst earthquake or tsunami that could be expected in this part of the world our plants would be safe.

“We also consider what would happen beyond that design point and have back-up systems in place. We should also note that an earthquake the size of the one in Japan is not credible in the UK.

“EDF Energy will play an active role in learning any lessons, as well as putting in place any necessary changes as a result of the report.

“We have already started to learn the lessons and our existing nuclear generation board held an extraordinary meeting on March 15 to take stock of recent events.

“They received a thorough review of the operation of our plants in fault situations, as well as taking on board the wider issues that events in Japan are beginning to reveal. Safety is our top priority at all times. We have already completed a number of actions including a thorough review of all our systems and processes. We have shared this activity openly with our colleagues across the UK and more widely with the worldwide nuclear industry through the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO).

“We have also been active in supporting the efforts of our colleagues in Japan and sent experts as required through WANO, and provided nuclear expertise to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other official bodies.

“We have also sent vital supplies and equipment to aid the recovery efforts taking place not only at the nuclear plant but also elsewhere in the affected area.

“We are remaining on standby to supply other support as required. We are determined to learn all the lessons that arise from the events at Fukushima. We aim to build on our strong safety record at our sites and continue to serve our local communities to the highest standards.”

Torness has been operational since 1988, providing 18 per cent of Scotland’s electricity needs and is due for decommissioning in 2023.

Like all nuclear power stations in the UK it undergoes regular inspections by the UK government’s Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) who reported earlier this year that there were two significant safety “events” at Torness Nuclear Power Station in September last year.

In one incident, an equipment malfunction cut off the electricity supplied to a gas circulator. And problems with electricity supply were also the problem in the second incident.

After investigating both incidents the NII is satisfied there is “no immediate safety issue” and that “in neither case did the event give rise to unsafe plant conditions” but they did request further information about the two events where “correct operational procedures appear not have been observed”.

The NII inspection report concludes: “NII will continue to monitor events at Torness, to gain assurance that operator performance and procedural adherence remains at an appropriate level.”