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Near meltdown at Wylfa in 1993

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(October 13, 1995) A British judge on 14 September fined the state-run operator Nuclear Electric 250,000 pounds ($387,000) for safety lapses after an accident at the nuclear reactor at Wylfa, Wales, two years ago.

(441.4341) WISE-Amsterdam - The nuclear power station is said to have come close to a meltdown on 31 July, 1993 as a result of these safety lapses. Nuclear Electric, which waited nearly ten hours before shutting down the reactor, admitted breaking safety laws during the trial and pleaded guilty to four charges under the Health and Safety Act.

The Wylfa nuclear plant incident was little reported at the time. During routine refuelling of one of the reactors, part of a crane - known as a grab - broke and fell into the reactor itself. The grab was jammed in a refuelling channel causing a blockage which could have led to an increase in pressure. Although the accident was discovered at 9:00 p.m., it was not until 4:45 a.m. the next day that the reactor at Wylfa was shut down.

Initially the incident was rated zero on the international scale for assessing nuclear events - meaning it had no significance for safety. A month later it was up-rated to point two on the scale - an incident involving significant failures in safety provisions. The Health and Safety Executive now claims that it was purely a matter of luck that a meltdown did not occur during that period. The Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations told the court in a statement that it was potentially the most serious incident he had come across in Britain during his career.

Prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive, Hugh Carlisle QC, charged that Nuclear Electric had been motivated by commercial rather than by safety considerations. Nuclear Electric's counsel, Robert Owen QC, claimed that the incident was unforeseen. Even though the company had admitted breaking Health and Safety rules, Owen insisted that safety had been paramount for Nuclear Electric.


  • BBC-1, 9pm tv news, 12 Sept.
  • Reuter, 14 Sept. 1995

Contact: Welsh Anti Nuclear Alliance (WANA), PO Box 1, Llandrindod Wells, Powys LD1 5AA, United Kingdom. Tel: +44-982- 570362