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GERMANY

More safety concerns for Vattenfall reactor in Germany

Sweden’s Vattenfall suffered another setback on Thursday as the company announced it would carry out additional checks of suspected faulty fuel rods at a nuclear power station it operates in Germany.

More safety concerns for Vattenfall reactor in Germany

The announcement comes just days after a short circuit forced an emergency shutdown of the Krümmel plant.

All 80,000 rods at the plant will be examined from Friday because “it looks as if one or several of the rods in the reactor is defective,” said Ernst Michael Züfle, head of operator Vattenfall’s nuclear arm.

Krümmel, one of the oldest of Germany’s 17 nuclear power stations, suffered an emergency shutdown on Saturday after a short circuit in one of its transformers and Vattenfall expects it to be offline for at least nine months.

It was the second such incident in several days at the plant near Hamburg, which had only re-opened around a week earlier after two years of repairs following a malfunction in a transformer that had caused a fire and a shutdown.

The situation at Krümmel has attracted significant media attention in recent days, and political parties have jumped on it ahead of general elections on September 27 with nuclear power a rare divisive issue between the parties.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is challenging Angela Merkel for the chancellorship for the centre-left Social Democrats, called on Thursday for Krümmel to be shut down for good.

“In my opinion the Krümmel reactor should be switched off. That is the most sensible course of action,” Steinmeier, who is also foreign minister and deputy chancellor, told reporters in Berlin.

“The incidents at Krümmel have shaken trust in nuclear energy in my view.”

Germany decided in 2000 under SPD ex-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to mothball its reactors by about 2020, when Merkel’s CDU/CSU conservatives were in opposition.

Merkel’s conservatives, now coalition partners to the SPD, want to extend the life of some of the nuclear plants, if — as polls suggest — they can form a majority with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) in the September vote.

Nuclear power remains highly unpopular in Germany, but the desire to cut carbon emissions and reduce dependence on foreign oil and gas has led many to push for a re-think.

Tuomo Hatakka, head of Vattenfall Europe, said the problems at Krümmel, which has been operating for over 25 years, “posed no risk to the population.”

“The safety systems worked at Krümmel and there is no reason to question them,” he told a news conference in Berlin.

Vattenfall is also struggling with safety lapses at a nuclear power plant in Sweden.

On Wednesday, Sweden’s Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) put the Ringhals plant, the country’s largest, under special observation following a string of incidents with the agency said jeopardized the facilities safety.

Vattenfall has a 70 percent stake in the plant, with the remaining 30 percent owned by German energy giant E.ON.

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NUCLEAR

Russia’s ‘nuclear titanic’ sets off for Swedish coast

A Russian power plant dubbed a “nuclear Titanic” by environmental campaigners set off on Saturday on its way to Sweden’s Baltic coast.

Russia's 'nuclear titanic' sets off for Swedish coast
The Akademik Lomonosov nuclear power station sets off from St Petersburg on Saturday. Photo: Dmitri Lovetsky/TT/AP
Akademik Lomonosov, the world’s first floating nuclear power plant, left the Baltic Shipyard in St Petersburg on Saturday morning.
 
It is expected to reach the Swedish coast next week, before making its way through the narrow Öresund straits, across the Kattegat and into the North Sea. 
 
“We are following this closely through our cooperation with other countries and through our own national agencies,” Johan Friberg, Director of the Swedish Radiation Safety Agency told Sweden’s state broadcaster SVT
 
Russia’s development of a floating nuclear power plant has generated alarm among its Nordic neighbours, with Norway’s foreign minister Børge Brende last June warning that the plan to transport it fully fuelled raised “serious questions”. 
 
Karolina Skog, Sweden’s environment minister, argued last June that floating nuclear power stations created “a new type of risk”. 
 
“It is important that Russia makes every effort to fulfil the criteria of international agreements, which should be seen as applying to floating nuclear power stations as well,” she said.  
 
After a meeting in Moscow that July, Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom relented on its plans to drag the reactor through the Baltic fuelled, saying that the plant would instead be fuelled in Murmansk after it had arrived in the Russian Arctic. 
 
“We will carry out the transportation through the Baltic and the Scandinavian region without nuclear fuel on board,” Alexey Likhachev told the Independent Barents Observer.  
 
Jan Haverkamp, nuclear expert for Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe, has attacked the plant as a ‘nuclear Titanic’, and “threat to the Arctic” 
 
“Nuclear reactors bobbing around the Arctic Ocean will pose a shockingly obvious threat to a fragile environment which is already under enormous pressure from climate change,” he said in a press release
 
After the plant is fuelled and tested, it will be pulled across to Pevek on the Eastern Siberian Sea, where it will be used to power oil rigs. 
 
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