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Hesse to improve nuclear reactor safety after doubts emerge

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Hesse to improve nuclear reactor safety after doubts emerge
Photo: DPA
16:00 CEST+02:00
After doubts about the safety standards of an ageing nuclear reactor in the state of Hesse emerged this week, the state's government announced Friday the plant would get a safety overhaul.

The plant's extended lifespan under the recent federal government decision to delay the phase-out of nuclear power in Germany would “involve further safety improvements,” Hesse Environment Minister Lucia Puttrich said.

Puttrich also rejected opposition criticism that followed a report by daily Süddeutsche Zeitung claiming that an unpublished experts' appraisal had found that Biblis B power plant had at least 80 significant weaknesses.

Both Biblis A and B plants adhered to a “high international security standard,” she said.

The Greens had complained that of 49 technical improvements deemed necessary in 1991, only 26 had actually been carried out. The former minister, Karlheinz Weimar, had at the time ordered the changes because of serious safety flaws at Biblis.

But Puttrich said 60 safety improvements had been carried out at Biblis A alone since 1991.

Süddeutsche Zeitung reported this week that the Institute for Applied Ecology in the Hessian city of Darmstadt had found there at least 80 deficiencies at the Biblis B reactor that were “related to safety.”

Biblis B, which has been in operation since 1976, is one of the oldest German nuclear plants still running. Originally due to be closed at the beginning of 2012, it will now operate until as late as 2020 under the new lifespan extension.

Among the problems listed in the report were flaws in its emergency system, such as defence against earthquakes and floods. Materials used in the construction of the plant were now out of date, such as PVC plastic coating on electrical cables or pipes with weak points at their welded joints.

“Internal flooding” could occur through a cracked pipe, leading to “all four units of the nuclear cooling system failing.”

The overall impression given by the 336-page study, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung, was that in many respects, the reactor did not meet today's safety standards. To bring it up to standard, an extensive overhaul would be needed.

Hesse's Environment Ministry responded that that newspaper report, saying “we have already assessed the claims but found no safety-related deficiencies.”

RWE also responded to the claims, saying: “Biblis is safe.”

DAPD/ka

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