Home Kent News What would’ve happened if there’d ever been a nuclear disaster at Dungeness

What would’ve happened if there’d ever been a nuclear disaster at Dungeness

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Original article from Kent Live

After more than 50 years, the end is nigh for Dungeness power station.

It has been generating nuclear power in Kent and the south east since 1967, but it is set to close ahead of its original schedule to begin shutting down in 2028.

The power station still employs around 500 staff and a further 250 contractors working on site.

Dungeness B closed for repairs in 2018 and had been forecast to begin producing electricity again in August this year but issues found within the reactors mean it is now beyond repair.

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Owners EDF said defuelling will begin immediately and could take up to 10 years, with most jobs expected to continue through the process.

The neighbouring Dungeness A ceased production in 2006.

A common fear about Dungeness power station among the layman through the years is what would have happened if there had ever been a nuclear disaster at the site.

Given the level of strict, stringent health and safety measures in place, fortunately it has always been extremely unlikely.

The nuclear power station has been in Dungeness since 1967

According to the American Nuclear Society, it is "impossible" for a reactor to explode like a nuclear weapon because weapons contain "very special materials" in very particular configurations, neither of which are present in a nuclear reactor.

It means that unless a bomb was dropped on the power station, the most likely reason for a disaster would be a nuclear meltdown, which is caused by an accident with the reactor that results in core damage from overheating.

And it's just as well, because an interactive map designed to show what the impact a nuclear disaster equivalent to the 1986 Chernobyl explosion would be, predicts Kent would have been completely wiped out.

The online tool was produced for the No2NuclearPower.org website using a CIA handbook from 1996 that illustrates the fallout from an equivalent disaster.

The red sections of the map represent the most severely affected areas – the lighter the colour, the less the impact but any place within the three darkest coloured parts of the map would be uninhabitable.

Even areas hundreds of miles away, including in France and mainland Europe, would be affected by a nuclear disaster in the UK.

How would Kent have been affected?

This map shows how far widespread the impact of a Chernobyl-esque disaster at Dungeness would be on the UK

So what if the worst had happened at Dungeness? How would it have changed Kent?

To put it simply, it would've been absolutely disastrous.

There's no way to quantify how many lives would've been lost, as that would depend on the nature of the accident and how quickly radiation spreads.

But over the course of time, the entire county of Kent and large areas of Sussex, in particular East Sussex towns such as Hastings, would've become uninhabitable.

A Chernobyl-like disaster at Dungeness would make the whole of Kent uninhabitable

Maps previously created by the Keep Wales Nuclear Free campaign illustrate the potential widespread impact a nuclear accident can have.

It shows that people living in Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone, Thanet, Tunbridge Wells and most towns across the county would have to find resettlement elsewhere.

The red sections of the map represent the most severely affected areas – the lighter the colour, the less the impact but any place within the three darkest coloured parts of the map would be uninhabitable.

The lightest coloured areas would require "strict radiological control".

There are of course limitations to the accuracy of the map if there was a nuclear disaster in the UK.

Wind direction would affect the spread of radiation and it only applies the fallout specifically from a Chernobyl sized disaster in the UK.

No2NuclearPower says on its website: "This interactive map overlays the actual fallout from the Chernobyl accident as it affected Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and other nearby countries applied to each of the nuclear power station sites in the UK.

"It is not a modelling exercise of potential accidents to UK nuclear power stations, but does illustrate the widespread impact a nuclear accident can have."

What will happen at Dungeness now?

Dungeness Power Station

John Benn, station director at Dungeness B said: “This power station has been a cornerstone of life in Kent for decades. It is a very special place and the team has a real sense of family – we are part of the community.

“EDF has had to make a hard decision – but it is the right one. It gives our teams, our community and our business a clear understanding of the future.

“I’m enormously proud of everything the team at Dungeness has achieved. Our low-carbon electricity has helped Britain over the past four decades and we have provided this part of Kent with vital jobs for generations.

"This marks the beginning of the next chapter in this station’s story. We will now plan the defuelling operations, a job we expect will take several years, and one that provides ongoing opportunities for our staff and their specialist skills.”

Original Article