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Radiological disaster averted?

by signerror
Tags: averted, disaster, radiological
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Jun11-09, 06:15 PM
P: 223
On the morning of Sunday 7 January 2007, one of the contractors working on decommissioning the Sizewell A nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast was in the laundry room when he noticed cooling water leaking on to the floor from the pond that holds the reactor's highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel.

As much as 40,000 gallons of radioactive water spilled out of a 15ft long split in a pipe, some leaking into the North Sea. The pond water level had dropped by more than a foot (330mm) – yet none of the sophisticated alarms in the plant sounded in the main control room.
The HM Nuclear Installation Inspectorate's report of the incident, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, said: "The pond could have been drained (it takes about 10 hours) before the required plant tour by an operator had taken place. In this worst-case scenario, if the exposed irradiated fuel caught fire it would result in an airborne off-site release."
and also:
Channel 4 News speaks to nuclear engineer, John Large, who explains the significance of the Sizewell A accident.

Q: How serious was this incident?

A: The real fear comes with what could have happened if the leak hadn’t been spotted – just 12 hours later the coolant water would have completely run out.
That would have led to 60 tonnes of nuclear fuel catching fire. So it is the potential for what could have happened that is the major concern here.

With a subsequent fire there would have been a nuclear plume that could have stretched from the Suffolk coast right up to north Norfolk. Certainly, it would have been on the same scale as Windscale.
Are these descriptions accurate?
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