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Nuclear Safety

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It says something for how Britain's nuclear establishment worked from the start that when Windscale No1 Pile caught fire in October 1957, it was hushed up so well that even with 11 tons of uranium ablaze for three days, the reactor close to collapse and radioactive material spreading across the Lake District, the people who worked there were expected to keep quiet and carry on making plutonium for the bomb.

 

America’s worst accident at a civilian nuclear power plant occurred on March 28, 1979. Unbeknown to anyone, half the fuel melted in one of two nuclear reactors on Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pa. Large quantities of radioactivity leaked from the reactor, but most of it was contained. In all probability, no one received a harmful amount of radiation. The enormous damage to the reactor was revealed only years later when TV cameras and a specially developed ultrasonic, sonar-like imaging system looked inside the reactor vessel.

 

In the early hours of 26 April 1986, one of four nuclear reactors at the Chernobyl power station exploded.

Moscow was slow to admit what had happened, even after increased radiation was detected in other countries.

The lack of information led to exaggerated claims of the number killed by the blast in the immediate area.

Contamination is still a problem, however, and disputes continue about how many will eventually die as a result of the world's worst nuclear accident.

 

These three seperate incidents have a common theme - that is, how they were all initially suppressed.

 

Environmental issues must NEVER be suppressed in this way.

It is up to us all to see to that.

 

I hope you can see the relevance to the issue of fracking - however distant.

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  1. Sellafield Stories: Life In Britain's First Nuclear Plant
  2. by Hunter Davies
  3. Sellafield-Stories-Life-In-B.jpg

This was Britain's worst-ever nuclear accident, but no one was evacuated, no iodine pills were distributed, work went on and most people were not even told about the fire. But, thanks to Sellafield Stories, a book of interviews with nearly 100 people who worked there, lived nearby or whose lives have been linked to the vast West Cumbrian nuclear complex, we know more now about how people really reacted.

Union leader and ex-Commando Cyril McManus says he thought the fire might mean the workers got a day off; Wally Eldred, the scientist who went on to be head of laboratories at BNFL, says he was told to "carry on as normal"; and chemist Marjorie Higham says she paid no attention. "Things did go wrong so you just didn't take any notice. The less you know about it the less you can tell anyone else."

"You kept quiet. But you know you were scared stiff really. Those who were working there... didn't want to be seen against the thing," says Mary Johnson, now in her 90s, who was born on the farm that was compulsorily purchased to become the site of Sellafield.

But we also know from the interviews that it was largely thanks to the courage of deputy general manager Tom Tuohy that the Lake District is still habitable today. When all else had failed to stop the fire, Tuohy, a chemist, now dead, scaled the reactor building, took a full blast of the radiation and stared into the blaze below.

"He was standing there putting water in and if things had gone wrong with the water – it had never been tried before on a reactor fire – if it had exploded, Cumberland would have been finished, blown to smithereens. It would have been like Chernobyl... there was contamination everywhere, on the golf course, in the milk, in chickens… but it was quickly forgotten about," says McManus.

Everyone in West Cumbria has a relationship with Sellafield. Every family has someone who worked there or has somehow benefited from it. The book includes interviews with Sellafield foremen, scientists, managers, farmers, labourers, anti-nuclear activists, the vicar, the MP and bank manager, policemen, physicists, welders and accountants.

My relationship began at 13 when I went to school at St Bees, just three miles away. We ran punishment runs past it, danced at Calder girls school, kissed the daughters of the scientists, were jeered at by the workers for wearing shorts and we got shown round it, I am almost certain, by Tom Tuohy, whose son was at school with us. I remember my dad saying the nuclear scientists thought they were "little gods" and my mum demanding that our medical records include the fact we were at school so close to the reactors.

What emerges is the intimate, honest, sometimes ugly story of how a wartime bomb factory was dumped in one of Britain's most cut-off areas, turned to producing plutonium for the atom bomb, then nuclear electricity and is now a American-led multinational corporation decommissioning the mess that it largely created.

But how did Sellafield become Europe's nuclear dustbin and the target of so much hostility to nuclear power? Its roots in weaponry explain the high security and the arrogance of its inward-looking early management. The fact that much of the workforce was drawn from the declining local iron ore and coal mines may explain the camaraderie of the workers and the vibrant community. But, the book suggests, its sheer physical isolation may have been responsible for some of the deep fears that people have of nuclear power.

The stories, edited by Hunter Davies, suggest that much of what happened then is inconceivable now. Management, profligate with money, was criminally careless with safety and ecology. It thought nothing of trying to block Wastwater lake to get more water or trying to mine the national park for a waste dump. It recklessly dumped contaminated water out to sea and filled old mines with radioactive waste.

It was useless with people, too. "I used to get very cross with their housing policy. The place was set up very much like a War Department settlement. If you lived on a certain street, you were of a certain status within the works. It was just bonkers," says Alan Postlethwaite, the truculent vicar of Seascale, who was accused of being a crypto-communist for even thinking the plant might be linked to cancers.

"What aroused my anxieties was within 12 or 18 months I conducted the funerals of thee children who died of leukaemia. And that put the frighteners on us because we had small children. When you asked, 'How many would you expect in a community of 2,000 people?' and were told, 'Perhaps one in 20 years' and you'd had three in a year... that's something to bother about. No, I am not anti-nuclear, but my goodness, I think they could have made a better fist of it if they'd tried harder," he says.

Seven rare cancers were found in the small Seascale community between 1955 and 1983, yet the authorities "proved" this was due to the natural movement of people. "I often think there will have been a Seascale cluster of leukaemia because that's where the fallout from the big chimneys was closest. These people have pontificated about bringing the stuff in from outside systems and that would give the kids leukaemia. Now I look back and think, no, we caused that," says McManus.

McManus suffered, too. "It was a great job. Don't get me wrong. I left in 1990 a free man but plutonium-exposed. They told me I had a lung burden and that was an accumulation from the 30-odd years I'd worked at Sellafield. I was a radiation leper. I was a non-desirable person on site."

But some folk could laugh it off. "I could always tell when my husband had been irradiated… because... his hair was standing on end when he came home," says Pam Eldred, wife of Wally

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Sadly oh here at least most would go for jam today, sod tomorrow line Hill Cliffe Walker, they don't give a crap, they would sell the inheritance of future generations along as they don't have to pay.

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As I said on the previous thread.

 

The report clearly states that it will be hundreds if not thousands of years until coastal erosion threatens this facility - even assuming that sea level rise even happens to the extent the Green loonies and their pseudo-science claim it will.

 

And it also clearly states that by then virtually all of the radioactivity stored there will have decayed away naturally.

 

Plenty of time to act IF there does indeed prove to be a problem.

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If there was any chance of the dump being flooded by sea water, I think they would move it, but when it comes to Windscale all things are possible, the Irish complained for years about the low level waste that was washed up on there shores

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By all accounts from the eco warriors ,the threat to life on earth is more imminent from fossil fuels than nuclear power stations.Surely wind farms would be an answer if they didn't spoil the view & offend the nimbies & what about more research into solar energy ?

 

Come on you eco warriors ,lobby your MPs about becoming eco friendly.

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And it also clearly states that by then virtually all of the radioactivity stored there will have decayed away naturally.

a lot depends on what the active nuclear material is.

 

Plutonium,for example, has many different isotopes. plutonium 238 will be half as radioactive as it was 88 years previous , whereas plutonium 244 will be half as radioactive as it was 80 million years ago.

 

Uranium also has differing isotopes. the most abundant being uranium 238 which will be half as radioactive as it was 4.5 billion years ago, uranium 235 will half as radioactive as it was 700 milion years ago.

 

tritium (radioactive hydrogen) will be half as radioactive than it was 12.5 years ago.

 

so unless you know what the active material is then it would be erronious to state that virtually all will have deacayed away, that it will have decayed away to a "safe" level would be more accurate, for a given value of "safe" that is. Usually based on what you would normally be exposed to during your average year, it is surprising how much radiation you may be exposed to withouit even knowing it, cosmic rays,radiation naturally occuring in plants and just being around other people, I am sure if you are interested you can google it try typing in "safe levels of radioactivity" and see what comes up.

 

Radioactivity is nasty but it has also had a very bad press, spiderman, the hulk just to name two examples. yes people have been killed but probably less than have been killed in coal mines or gold mines for that matter. Mention radioactivity to anybody and they will regale you with horror stories of mutated children etc. But how many of those would not think twice to exposing themselves to radioactivity by way of the simple xray for broken bones or dental treatment. so next time obne of the green lobby start harranging youu about the subject merely ask then when they last had an xray and see the puzzlement on thier faces.

 

so ends the broadcast for the pro nuclear party, vote armaggedon the party to last. :mrgreen:

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