Friday, December 21, 2007

Faults at Nuclear Plants Recharge Power Controversy

Dec. 21, 2007

Faults at Nuclear Plants Recharge Power Controversy,2144,3016134,00.html

Minor structural faults were reported on Thursday, Dec. 20, at two nuclear power plants in Germany. The incidents come on the heels of a scandal involving a pair of other plants accused of covering up defects.

A leak was discovered in a 1.5 centimeter (0.6-inch) pipe that forms part of the cooling system in Block A of the Biblis nuclear power plant, the state's environment ministry confirmed on Thursday.

The Biblis plant, operated by the RWE energy group, was shut down in fall 2006 after faulty replacement screws had been installed. Block B went back online earlier this month, while Block A is expected to be turned back on in early January. It had originally been scheduled to go back online this week.

In a separate incident, an instrument used to measure neutron levels broke down at the Brokdorf plant in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein on Dec. 13, state authorities also said on Thursday. The plant is operated by E.ON.

Both faults reportedly present no danger to employees or the environment.

Rocky year for nuclear energy

This summer, the sector received a jolt when a fire and a short circuit forced two nuclear power plants near Hamburg to shut down. The plant's joint operators, E.ON and Vattenfall, were accused of concealing structural defects in the plants.

Though the claim was denied, Vattenfall's European chief stepped down as a result of the incident.

Germany is deeply divided on whether or not the country should use nuclear energy at all, a schism only deepened by the events earlier this year. All of Germany's 17 nuclear reactors are slated to be gradually shut down by the year 2020, in a government plan to wean the country off the controversial energy source.

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