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Sizewell's Olympic terror threat fears

PUBLISHED: 08:58 04 September 2009 | UPDATED: 11:52 06 July 2010

FEARS of a terrorist attack near the Olympic village have been raised following the start of work to remove highly radioactive spent fuel from Sizewell.

FEARS of a terrorist attack near the Olympic village have been raised following the start of work to remove highly radioactive spent fuel from Sizewell.

More than 300 train journeys will take place over the next three years as 52,000 rods are transported on thick, steel containers known as flasks.

The traditional route for spent fuel transport during the operation years of Sizewell A nuclear power station was through Suffolk down to Stratford and from there to the Sellafield Nuclear Reprocessing Works.

The Shut Down Sizewell Campaign said yesterday that it might not be wise for the containers to follow the traditional route.

Peter Lanyon, the anti nuclear group's spokesman said: “The proposed flask train program means that the trains containing fuel rods will be travelling through the Olympic site (at Stratford) at the height of the construction of the facilities there and may be during the games themselves.

“This would be such a tempting terrorist target that there is an argument for avoiding such transport on that route.”

Direct Rail Services, which organises the nuclear transport, said in a statement issued at yesterday's meeting of the Sizewell Stakeholder Group (SSG) that is was currently in discussion with a number of parties regarding service provision during the period of the Olympic games.

“Such discussion must recognise that the continual transport of used fuel is vital to support our customer's ongoing operational requirements,” it said.

The statement added: “DRS runs its operations within extremely stringent safety, security and driver performance standards. All used nuclear fuel is transported in heavily shielded, purpose-built containers.

“This material has been transported in this way since 1962, travelling over eight million miles without any incident involving the release of radio active material.”

Clive Pullen, plant manager at Sizewell A, told the SSG meeting that over the 40-year operating lifetime of the power station more than 2,000 spent fuel flasks had been safely transported to Sellafield.

He said all the fuel from the twin reactors was scheduled to be removed from the site by June 2012 but this would depend on the performance of the Sellafield repossessing plant where problems had been experienced over the past few years.

The UK Nuclear Safety watchdog is to be challenged over its part in deciding the international rating given to a radiation incident at Sizewell A.

A burst pipe in January 2007 led to the release of thousands of gallons of radio actively contaminated water into the North Sea. However, the incident has been officially assigned to a scale one event “of no nuclear safety consequence” on the International Nuclear Event Scale.

Some members of the SSG believe it should have been assigned as a more serious event, on level two or three, and chairman Richard Smith is writing to the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate querying the decision - because of the radiation discharge and the nationwide review of safety which it prompted.

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