British nuclear industry given all-clear

2011-05-18 16:24

London - Britain's nuclear plants are not at risk of the kind of natural disaster that caused Japan's nuclear crisis in March and they can continue to operate as normal, the chief inspector said on Wednesday.

An enquiry was launched into the British nuclear industry after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that caused severe damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Mike Weightman, executive head of the Office for Nuclear Regulation, said: "The extreme natural events that preceded the accident at Fukushima - the magnitude 9 earthquake and subsequent huge tsunami - are not credible in the UK.

"We are 1 000 miles (1 600km) from the nearest fault line and we have safeguards in place that protect against even very remote hazards.

"Our operating and proposed future reactor designs and technology are different to the type at the Fukushima plant."

The inspector also said the risk of flooding was unlikely to prevent construction of new nuclear power stations at potential development sites in Britain, all of which are on the coast.

The British government is planning a new series of nuclear reactors on existing sites to maintain electricity supplies and cut greenhouse gas emissions as an old generation of power stations are phased out.

Energy Minister Chris Huhne said the report provided the "basis to continue to remove the barriers to nuclear new build in the UK.

"We want to see new nuclear as part of a low carbon energy mix going forward, provided there is no public subsidy. The chief nuclear inspector's interim report reassures me that it can," he said.

Although the report said the nuclear plants could continue to operate, it made 26 recommendations for areas to be reviewed by the government, industry and regulators, to see if there are any measures which could improve safety.

The interim report released on Wednesday will be followed by a full report due in September.