Vattenfall under fire for blaze at German nuclear plant

Vattenfall under fire for blaze at German nuclear plant
Photo: Hinnerk
Swedish energy giant Vattenfall was forced to defend itself on Friday against criticism of its public handling of a fire last week at a German nuclear power plant.

Responding to criticism that the company had not made public the full extent of the blaze at the Krümmel power plant in Geesthacht, 30 kilometres (20 miles) southeast of Hamburg, a spokesman for Vattenfall Europe told AFP:

“We kept the public and the authorities fully informed from the very beginning.”

Politicians and environmentalists have blasted Vattenfall for failing to reveal the full extent of the incident.

The chief whip of the environmentalist Green party, Renate Künast, even demanded that Vattenfall lose its licence to operate nuclear power plants in Germany.

Künast noted that there had been past incidents at other nuclear plants operated by Vattenfall, namely Forsmark in Sweden and in Brunsbüttel, Germany, in 2001.

“Each time, Vattenfall tried to cover up the true extent of the problem,” she told the regional daily Berliner Zeitung.

Earlier this week, the German branch of Friends of the Earth, BUND, similarly demanded from Vattenfall “full transparency in the investigation of the causes of the fire and possible dangers.”

The fire led to problems at the plant’s nuclear reactor, according to the Schleswig-Holstein state social affairs ministry, which is responsible for the region’s power plants.

Local police reported last week that the fire, which started when coolant in a large electric power transformer substation ignited due to a short circuit, had been isolated from the atomic reactor.

But experts investigating the incident found “several unusual things when the reactor was shut down,” including evidence of damage related to the fire.

But they said there was no radiation leak.

Separately, another nuclear power plant in Schleswig-Holstein, Brunsbüttel, was temporarily shut down last Thursday about two hours before the Krümmel fire because its capacity was overloaded. It reopened on Sunday.