Emissions, Nuclear

Scottish nuclear power station receives final warning after leak

21 September 2009 – A Scottish nuclear power station has been sent a final warning letter after radioactive waste leaked into the sea.

Around 2600 litres of low-level waste was discharged from Hunterston B into the Firth of Clyde because of a problem with a valve, reported The Herald. The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) said the leak did not cause an environmental issue, but it issued the Ayrshire power station with a final warning letter because procedures were not followed.

Extracts from a letter sent by SEPA radioactive substances specialist Keith Hammond to the director of Hunterston B on July 8 emerged in the Sunday Herald.

He wrote: ‘SEPA is deeply concerned over this matter. As a result of the event, the station appears to have contravened a number of conditions attached to its authorisation made under section 13 of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993. Any further contravention of the legislation is likely to result in enforcement action being taken against you.”

Environmentalists said the situation raised fresh concerns about nuclear power.

British Energy said the incident happened while a routine maintenance operation was being carried out to ‘leak test’ a pipe on the authorised discharge route from the low-level waste facility.

During the process, which was carried out on May 15, 2600 litres of liquid waste was inadvertently discharged into the sea due to a valve misalignment, without being pre-sampled for effluent quality as required.

The waste involved was mainly shower water from people working in the building, and British Energy said it was of low level radioactivity.

A British Energy spokesman said: ‘The discharge had no discernible impact on the environment as the volumes and levels of activity involved are very small compared to the normal fully sampled and authorised discharges.

‘The station immediately embargoed operations of the affected plant and contacted SEPA to report the event. Normal discharges were only recommenced following rigorous review of arrangements and procedures.’