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Increase in UK nuclear transport accidents

Sharp rise in nuclear transport accidents , 3 Oct 12, from Sunday Herald, 30 September 2012 The number of accidents transporting radioactive materials has risen sharply, prompting fears for public safety.

According to a new report from the UK government’s Health Protection Agency (HPA), there were 38 incidents reported in 2011, up from 30 in 2010. This is the second highest in the last six years, which have seen a total of 195 mishaps (see table below).

Eleven of the incidents last year involved radioactive fuel flasks from nuclear power stations, compared to eight the previous year, often due to loose bolts, faulty valves or other defects. Other problems befell consignments of nuclear industry waste, medical isotopes and other radioactive shipments.

In one instance in December a train carrying nuclear fuel flasks hit a tree on the line. In November a courier van carrying radioactive packages to a nuclear site was stopped by police who discovered that the driver had been disqualified from driving.

In October the surfaces of three high-level radioactive waste containers shipped abroad to an unspecified country were found to be contaminated in breach of permitted limits. In August 2011 46 waste oil drums triggered radiation alarms when they left a nuclear site.

According to the HPA one incident in May 2011, when a vial containing medical radioactivity broke, gave a member of staff a “potentially significant” radiation dose. A spillage of a uranium ore in June last year may also have exposed a worker to radiation.

The locations of the incidents are not disclosed in the report, so it is not known how many of them took place in Scotland. Neither the HPA, nor the government’s Office for Nuclear Regulation, which commissioned the report, were able to say last week.

Peter Burt, from the Nuclear Information Service, argued that transporting radioactive materials was one of the nuclear industry’s riskiest activities. He urged safety regulators to devote more attention to ensuring that companies comply with the rules before authorising large-scale movements.

“It’s a concern that in the months after the Fukushima accident – when nuclear safety was a top priority for governments and regulators around the world – the number of nuclear transport incidents recorded in the UK actually went up instead of down,” he said.

UK accidents and incidents transporting radioactive materials

year / number of reported incidents 2011 / 38

2010 / 30
2009 / 33
2008 / 39
2007 / 26
2006 / 29
Total / 195

source: Health Protection Agency

October 4, 2012 - Posted by | incidents, UK

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