Crane accident triggers German atomic reactor shutdown

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A remote-controlled crane struck an electric power cable outside a nuclear power plant in the southern city of Biblis, leading to the shutdown of one of two reactors, the press reported Wednesday.

The operator of the Biblis nuclear power plant said the turbine linked to reactor B was automatically turned off after the crane clipped a high-voltage cable during construction work at a water treatment plant.

The working capacity of the reactor has been lowered to 40 percent as a result of the incident at the Biblis atomic plant which is Germany's oldest nuclear reactor.

The Environment Ministry in the state of Hesse which is in charge of the safety of the nuclear plant, had been immediately informed.

The German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety reported over the weekend that 122 incidents were subject to reporting at the country's 17 nuclear power plants last year, according to the Munich-based Focus news magazine.

Based on a seven-stage international evaluation scale (INES), 120 incidents were reported to be on the lowest notifiable category.

They had either "no or very little" security and technical significance.

In two cases, it was registered as the second lowest category, however it had no radiological relevance.

Last March, a short circuit of a malfunctioning pump at the north German Brokdorf nuclear plant caused a fire in the facility.

In February, a fire broke out at a deactivated nuclear power plant near Hamburg which had been the scene of repeated mishaps in the past.

Owned by the Swedish Vattenfall company, the Kruemmel nuclear plant was shut down after a fire broke out in a transformer on June 28, 2007.

The German government cited last year "considerable security deficits" in some of the country's 17 nuclear reactors following a series of recent incidents and technical blunders.

Berlin had also asked the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to review all security and technical supervisory aspects of its nuclear program.

Germany's nuclear power plants reported 944 incidents between the period of early 2000 and late 2006, according to statistics released by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS).

Meanwhile, the number of registered breakdowns in German nuclear power plants since 1993 stand at 1,945.

The latest figures point to the high number of incidents in especially older nuclear power plants.

Topping the list are two nuclear power facilities, Brunsbuettel and Neckarwestheim both of which were built in 1976.

Brunsbuettel reported 437 and Neckarwestheim 1 registered 408 mishaps.

One-third of German atomic reactors are reportedly shut down because of either technical problems, repair work or system check-ups.

German nuclear power plants account for 26 percent of the nation's energy consumption.

Faced with a gradual phase-out by 2021, Germany's nuclear reactors are still working at full strength, having raised their electricity production in 2006.

German atomic power plants generated 167.4 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2006, up from 163 billion kilowatt hours in 2005. --IRNA

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