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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

'No hold up' anticipated from UK nuclear review

A safety review of the UK's nuclear industry, to be released on Wednesday, is expected to give a broad all-clear to current reactors and future plans.

Energy and Climate Secretary Chris Huhne commissioned the report in the wake of the Fukushima crisis in Japan.

Chief nuclear installations inspector Mike Weightman is expected to raise issues that should be explored further but will not affect new-build plans.

Estimates of the Fukushima compensation costs run to $100bn (£61bn).

But the Weightman report is expected to conclude that events resulting in a similar scale of damage are unlikely in the UK.

It will recommend continuing to allow multiple reactors on power station sites, BBC News understands, despite reports that the situation at Fukushima may have been exacerbated when explosions in one reactor building caused damage in others nearby.

It is understood that Mr Weightman will endorse government plans for an independent Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR), formally announced at the beginning of April.

He is currently executive head of the office inside the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and it is not clear whether he is in the running to lead it once it becomes independent.
In haste?

Although reportedly running to 145 pages, this is described as an "interim" report.

The final version, incorporating comments from industry and other interested parties, is due to be published in September.

At the weekend, the giant energy company EDF, which is planning to build the first of the UK's new nuclear plants, told newspapers that it was planning a major push to "sell" nuclear power to the UK public.

An opinion poll published in March, shortly after the Fukushima saga began, showed that support for the technology had diminished in the UK.

However, more people supported than opposed the building of new nuclear power stations.

Many countries have announced reviews of their nuclear industries following the Japanese crisis, with the German government intent on closing its remaining reactors.

Environmental groups say that with the situation at Fukushima still not completely under control, and with revelations still emerging about Japanese companies having resisted warnings about earthquake damage down the years, it is too soon to make a final judgement.

"With brave emergency workers still battling to bring Fukushima under control, and no analysis yet from international nuclear authorities, it will take many months or even years before the lessons can be properly learned," said Doug Parr of Greenpeace.
BBC News

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