Leak fuels Scandinavian nuclear debate

An internal leak was behind the high radioactivity levels that led to the emergency shut-down of a Norwegian nuclear reactor last weekend, officials have said.

The Kjellar reactor north of Oslo, a 40-year old experimental facility used for physics research, was shut down immediately after high radioactivity was detected inside the building.

Faulty fuel and leaks in the cooling system were the most likely cause, the Norwegian nuclear safety agency said.

The leak is thought to have been contained inside the facility. The nuclear safety agency said in a statement that “no radioactivity above normal levels had been measured outside” of the building.

Following closely behind an incident at a Swedish atomic power plant a month ago that has been described as the worst nuclear incident since Chernobyl (see related story), this latest Scandinavian scare story has reignited nuclear safety fears in the region.

While Sweden depends on nuclear for 40% of its energy needs, in Norway a national ban covers nuclear power and weapons with two research facilities – one of which is the 2MW Kjellar reactor – the only exceptions.

Following a 1980 referendum, Sweden promised to phase out nuclear power completely by 2010 – but, with the deadline looming, the country’s politicians are now questioning that promise.

Goska Romanowicz

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