‘A future Fukushima’ warns nuclear expert

LARGE aircraft landing and taking off near Dungeness Power Station could be a nuclear disaster waiting to happen, claim airport protesters.

Lydd Airport Action Group (LAAG) opened its nuclear safety case at the ongoing public inquiry into the controversial airport expansion this week.

Addressing the inquiry was John Large, the first of four experts engaged by LAAG to claim that it is inherently unsafe for a regional airport to be developed beside a nuclear power station complex.

Louise Barton, from the action group, said: “Expansion will introduce a step change in the probability of a major nuclear accident since large aircraft, such as Boeing 737s, will be taking off and landing close to the Dungeness site.”

On Wednesday John Large outlined the vulnerability of the Dungeness nuclear power stations to an aircraft crash and claimed the risk of serious radiological release remains on site well beyond the decommissioning phase.

But EDF energy, in a public meeting at Rye, claimed the power station could withstand a direct hit from an aircraft and not leak radiation, though it said it was not in favour of the airport expansion.

The company also says the build of the power station could withstand any earthquake that could happen in the UK.

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Chartered Consulting Engineer John Large, who has first hand experience of dealing with nuclear accidents, believes the reinforced concrete vessel of each reactor at Dungeness B would most likely withstand the aircraft crash but says subsidiary equipment failures caused by the crash could lead to a very significant radiological release, mirroring the situation at Fukushima.

He said: “The reactors at Fukushima shut down immediately with the strong earthquake as they were designed to do, but the complete loss of power and auxiliary service water supply which occurred after the tsunami, triggered the radiological release.”

Mr large also claims there has been a failure to assess and include Dungeness A and the nuclear rail head in the airport’s crash damage safety assessment.

Louise Barton said; “This is despite the admission by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) - now part of the Office for Nuclear Regulation - that Dungeness A, despite ceasing power generation in 2006, is currently considered more dangerous that the operationally active Dungeness B.”

Mr large says there has also been a failure to undertake a demographic siting assessment required to take account of the additional population flows produced by the airport

Louise Barton said: “Fukushima reminds us that incredible events can and do happen which is why they should be avoided.

“Just as Japan will questioning the wisdom of locating nuclear power station on a coastline exposed to tsunamis, the UK should not choose to expand an airport next to a nuclear power station because it is inherently unsafe and places the general public at risk.

“The nuclear regulator is looking at the ‘lessons to be learned’ from Fukushima which requires it to re-evaluate the way in which it views this kind of accident where the probability may be low but where the outcome is so extreme.

The airport claims that an expansion would create hundreds of new jobs and help to regenerate the Rye area.

The inquiry continues.