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The Independent on Sunday - "Revealed: faulty nuclear reactor was allowed to operate without safety alarm"

Mike Weightman responds to an article in the press

Letters Editor,

Regarding your article on Oldbury nuclear power station ("Revealed: faulty nuclear reactor was allowed to operate without safety alarm", 17 June), the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) would not allow any nuclear facility to operate were we not satisfied its operation met our stringent requirements.

Geoffrey Lean quotes selectively from reports assessing arguments for the reactor's restart. Unfortunately, he has misinterpreted them. His "one-in-1000 risk of fire" in the nuclear fuel actually refers to the probability of a less serious event - a fuel 'clad melt' and fails to recognise there are several barriers preventing this leading to a significant release of radiation.

The 'failed fuel trip system' is a proposed additional defence against the remote possibility that, despite detailed inspection evidence to the contrary, a significant crack might develop in the reactor's graphite core over the next period of operation and lead to a clad melt. The documents cited clearly show HSE's analysts concluded that existing systems already provide adequate protection.

It is perfectly proper for journalists to challenge public bodies. I simply ask for an objective approach that does not misrepresent facts, nor malign honest, conscientious people whose purpose is protecting workers and the public.

Dr Mike Weightman
HM Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations

Updated 2009-04-27