Safety concerns after welding fire at nuclear plant
18 April 2012
Posted by John Bull
A fire believed to be caused by welding at a nuclear research complex in the US has led to fresh concerns about nuclear safety.
Standards are likely to be examined at the Idaho facility after a blaze prompted an evacuation of almost 100 workers.
No one was reported to have been injured at the Materials and Fuels Complex near Idaho Falls when welders working on the roof of a building caused a fire.
The flames at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) nuclear research base were quickly quenched and the body has insisted at no point were members of the public or employees at risk.
According to INL, the fire was reported just before 14:00 local time on Monday (April 16th) and was terminated at 17:10, with no radiological materials affected and the blaze confined to around four sq ft of the roof.
Responsible for the development and testing of new reactor fuels and recycling nuclear waste, the facility houses radioactive material.
The importance of nuclear safety was highlighted by the meltdown in March last year at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was damaged in the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on the 11th of the month.
As of today (April 18th), the Fukushima power station, which is operated by TEPCO, is being maintained in a stable condition as mid and long-term countermeasures are implemented to decommission the facility and ensure that those people forced to evacuate the area as a result of radioactivity are able to return home as soon as possible.
The earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March 2011 caused fuel cores to melt in the plant, breaching pressure vessels and leading to nuclear material leaking into the surrounding area.
Units one to three at the site have been shut down and preventive measures are being taken as decommissioning work is underway to guard against outflows to the sea.