Sweden’s Nuclear Problems

Dr. Helen Caldicott was interviewed on The Current this morning during a segment examining the nuclear weapons situation in North Korea.

Her central thesis was that we should be paying more attention to the real nuclear weapons problem — the one where there are still thousands of nuclear missles in the U.S. and Russia ready to launch at a moment’s notice.

She also brought up the issue of the safety of nuclear power plants, and used the example of a recent “near meltdown” situation in Sweden as an example of why we have more to fear from our own nuclear power stations than we do from North Korea.

She mentioned this at the very end of her interview, and the host, Anna Maria Tremonti, said something like “and that didn’t get reported here” and signed off.

I’d like to hope that The Current will follow up on this; in the meantime, here’s what I’ve been able to glean:

  • Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant [Wikipedia]
  • Swedish nuclear reactors stopped — Four of Sweden’s 10 nuclear reactors have been shut down, following an electricity failure. [BBC]
  • Sweden gives quarter of nuclear reactors green light to restart after safety shutdown — A quarter of Swedish nuclear reactors that have been shut down since a malfunction in July can be restarted next week, while the others need further safety measures, Sweden’s nuclear inspection agency said Thursday. [IHT]
  • Forsmark incident “worst ever in Sweden” — A leading atomic expert on Thursday said Sweden’s emergency shut-down of a nuclear reactor at the Forsmark power plant at the end of July was the country’s worst nuclear incident. [The Local]
  • Call for immediate closure of Sweden’s nuclear reactors following near-meltdown incident — 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. [Greenpeace]
  • Swedish nuclear incident revives safety debate — Initially, a short-circuit in the Forsmark 1 reactor caused a blackout. Two of four backup diesel generators failed to start automatically. This revealed other faults in the electrical system that “need to be investigated before the reactor can be restarted”, the Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate (SKI) said in a statement. [ENDS Europe Daily]


oliver's picture
oliver on October 12, 2006 - 17:28 Permalink

This site shows “manual shutdown” relying on an electrified panel of buttons.

But you can run a panel of switches on a watch battery, and keep a spare in the drawer beside your flashlight. It takes mechanical force to move cooling rods, but gravity is always “on” and so is a compressed spring. So my sense of the crisis is that the lawnmower-type generator and its backup that the operators use in lieu of watch batteries both failed to start. Someone forgot to buy diesel, or change the oil. That’s lame, but at least we aren’t talking about parts you have to order from Japan six weeks in advance. You’d like to think the operators have a reliable phone and that the national army might be able to find a generator and get one there in the time it takes reactors to go critical (which is robustly engineered into the system, I presume). I guess that’s what happened in Sweden.