Investigation into power outage at nuclear submarine reactor fuel plant

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An investigation is underway into a power outage which interrupted electricity supply to a Derby factory which prepares reactor fuel for the Royal Navy's fleet of nuclear powered submarines.

The incident, which took place earlier this year at a site operated by Rolls-Royce Marine Power Operations Ltd (RRMPOL) at Raynesway in Derby, was reported to the government's nuclear safety watchdog but not announced publicly by the company.

The quarterly site report published for the Rolls-Royce sites by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) for April – June 2014 reveals that the nuclear fuel production plant suffered a power outage at some time during the reporting period.

According to the ONR report the off-site power supply feeding the plant, which manufactures fuel modules containing highly enriched uranium for the Royal Navy's nuclear powered submarines, was “interrupted and subsequently became intermittent”.  The incident “affected on-site services”, including ventilation extraction systems used to help contain radioactive contamination, and an emergency muster of some of the staff working at the site took place.

ONR has stated that no radiation dose to site workers or radioactive release to the environment took place as a result of the incident.  RRMPOL is currently conducting an investigation into the incident.

The exact date of the incident has not been reported by ONR.

The ONR report also mentions that in “several instances” over the reporting period routine inspections of radiological protection and supply chain management arrangements identified that safety requirements were “not adequate”.  ONR intends to monitor progress in addressing the issues and if necessary will take formal enforcement action to ensure that action is taken by RRMPOL to address concerns.

RRMPOL is currently facing charges under health and safety and environmental legislation at Derby Crown Court on the management of radiation exposure risks.