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Near-meltdown incident at Swedish nuclear reactor

Call for immediate closure of Sweden's nuclear reactors following near-meltdown incident.

Greenpeace demands action as Swedish regulator meets to decide on possible shut-downs.

Sweden 2 August 2006. Sweden's nuclear regulator SKI will meet in emergency session tomorrow (3 August) to decide on a possible immediate shut-down of all but one of the country's nuclear power stations supplying up to 50% of Sweden's electricity. Greenpeace has called for the reactors to be shut down following a serious incident last week at Sweden's Forsmark nuclear power station, in which "it was pure luck there wasn't a meltdown" according to a former director of the plant.

The Forsmark incident was caused by the failure of back-up generators following a problem with the main power supply. If the backup system fails after a grid cut-off or a whole blackout, the operator loses instrumentation and control over the reactor leading to an inability to cool the core, which can lead to a meltdown (1). In a report published last year, Greenpeace highlighted the widespread and frequent problems of failing power backup systems of nuclear reactors, which have also been reported in the US and Germany.

Swedish media reported yesterday that a former director of the Forsmark plant said "It was pure luck that there was not a meltdown. Since the electricity supply from the network didn't work as it should have, it could have been a catastrophe." Without power, the temperature would have been too high after 30 minutes and within two hours there could have been a meltdown.

"The Forsmark incident is just another illustration of the nuclear industry and nuclear regulators gambling with the lives of thousands or even millions of people" said Jan Vande Putte of Greenpeace International. "It has proved that a simple power blackout - something which has been happening regularly during the recent heatwaves - can very easily lead to a catastrophic reactor meltdown. This is a prime example of why this technology is inherently dangerous, must be phased out worldwide and never allowed to return. A combination of safe, renewable sources of energy and energy efficiency measures are the only sane solution for power generation."

ENDS

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