Burnt nuclear reactor site visited

Thursday, August 21, 2008

For the first time since a fire 50 years ago, engineers have taken a look inside the Windscale Pile 1 reactor at the Sellafield nuclear plant.

The decommissioning team looked inside the affected area with an endoscope to take pictures from the core, allowing for the removal of the remaining fuel and isotopes in the reactor pile.

In 1957 one of the two reactor piles caught fire and caused Britain's worst nuclear accident, releasing masses of radiation into the countryside.

Since then, accessible fire damage has been cleared and safety equipment put in to prevent any further release of radiation.

Because of the difficulty of examining the reactor, complicated and costly engineering solutions were proposed for its safe dismantling but more modern technology showed the Pile 1 fire could not start again and that the remaining fuel was not dangerous.

The affected area covers one-third of the reactor and the engineers estimated that about 90% of the core is undamaged.

Further surveys will be carried out to give the team a better understanding of its condition.

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