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Dungeness B nuclear reactor shut down amid fears inadequate flood defences would spark Fukushima-style disaster

One of the nuclear reactors at Dungeness B power station was shut down for two months last year over fears the facility had inadequate flood defences, it has emerged.

Documents from the Health and Safety Executive show that in December 2012 operators, French firm EDF Energy, thought the shingle bank acting as a primary sea defence "was not as robust as previously thought" following an internal review.

But EDF have reassured the public saying it was a precautionary measure and the site is safe.

Dungeness B power station
Dungeness B power station

In light of the Fukushima disaster in Japan in March 2011, the government commissioned Mike Weightman, the chief inspector of nuclear installations, to look into the safety aspects in UK nuclear plants.

One of the recommendations of this review, called the Weightman report, was for the industry in Britain to review its flood defences.

After the report of December 2012, EDF carried out further reviews and found more work needed to be done to protect Dungeness from flooding - which caused the Fukushima disaster.

Reactor 22 was shut down on May 20 last year, without notice of how serious a risk the station was at.

At the time the other reactor on the site, Reactor 21, was closed for routine maintenance.

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An EDF spokesman said: "We conservatively took the decision to take both reactors offline in order to undertake additional protection to cover extremely rare events; ones which might happen only one in 10,000 years.

Dungeness B station director Martin Pearson
Dungeness B station director Martin Pearson

"Part of this work included building a flood defence wall around the site which is due to be completed this month.

"We are continuously updating and improving the plant to ensure it is operating safely. The recent weather has had no impact on operations at Dungeness B."

"It was already protected anyway. It has to be a dry site for us to be safe to operate.

"We’ve gone and done the research ourselves when we didn’t have to.

"So it shows we’re being responsible and shut down and started the reactors safely."

Station director, Martin Pearson, added: “The recent adverse weather has had no impact on existing infrastructure.

"The power station has operated normally in the recent high tides and stormy weather.”

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