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David Lowry: Covid-19 spread shows up vulnerability at heart of nuclear programmes

Energy Transitions 9th April 2020, David Lowry: Covid-19 spread shows up vulnerability at heart of nuclear
programmes, with resilience of UK critical national infrastructures undermined. The coronavirus’ effects act as threat multiplier, as David Lowry explains.
First indications that the dreaded coronavirus had penetrated the very heart of the UK nuclear sector came in on 15 March when Sellafield Ltd confirmed that a worker at the vast nuclear waste management complex – employing 13,000 workers – had tested positive for Covid19.
I asked the UK nuclear regulator what proportion of Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) staff being forced into simultaneous self-isolation would trigger a crisis that would not allow nuclear safety and security
regulatory oversight to continue effectively across the UK? And, if this situation arose, what executive regulatory decision would be required if all operating nuclear facilities could no longer be simultaneously regulated to a legal standard?
ONR responded, including the following thus: “All civil nuclear sites have minimum staffing levels, and contingency
plans should they fall below these levels, to enable them to remain in control of activities that could impact on nuclear safety under all foreseeable circumstances throughout the life cycle of the facility. In addition, licensees need minimum staffing levels to comply with their on-site and off-site emergency plans.

April 12, 2020 - Posted by | safety, UK

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