Thursday, July 19, 2001

BNFL has admitted its initial estimate that nuclear fuel rods had dropped just two foot in a near miss incident was wrong and the lethal rods had dropped 80 foot in an accident at the Chapelcross nuclear reactor north of Carlisle.

Anti-nuclear groups have labelled the ageing reactors at Chapelcross and its sister plant at Sellafield as "ticking time bombs" after the accident last week involving 12 irradiated fuel rods halted refuelling at both sites.

The incident, now being investigated by the nuclear energy watchdog, saw 24 rods drop during a routine changeover at Chapelcross, Annan.

BNFL immediately halted refuelling at the reactor in Chapelcross and at Calder Hall.

Yesterday BNFL said all the fuel rods had been accounted for and safely recovered.

BNFL spokesman Nigel Monckton said on Monday: "Now we have got remote cameras to check it appears the rods dropped some 80 foot into the water filled reception flask at the bottom.''

Martin Forwood, of West Cumbrian anti-nuclear group Core, said: "This has been ticking away for some time and it leaves a very scary thought in the mind."

Jill Perry, of West Cumbria Friends of the Earth, said: "Calder Hall opened 44 years ago and was only designed for a 25-year lifespan. It is running well past its sell-by date."

BNFL spokesman Nigel Monckton said: "Nobody was injured and no radiation has been released.".

Energy Minister, Brian Wilson has demanded a detailed report from BNFL into the July 5 incident and was expected to be grilling BNFL's chairman Hugh Collum yesterday before a possible Sellafield visit today