Forsmark under scrutiny

30 January 2007

Managers at Forsmark have faced tough questions following the release of an internal document which revealed safety concerns, and the revelation that subcontractors were sent home after failing alcohol and drug tests.

The spotlight has been on the plant since the sudden shutdown of unit 1 following a short-circuit in the plant switchyard on 25 July. A complex sequence of over- and under-voltages caused the unit to shut down, but with only two of four safety trains in operation. The other two were manually started 22 minutes later, but the discovery of the design fault was a shock to the Swedish nuclear industry.

Reactors with similar systems, Forsmark 2 and Oskarshamn 1 and 2 were shut down as a precaution, while Ringhals 4 was offline for refuelling. Changes have now been made to all the units to protect against similar conditions.

When giving permission for the reactors to restart, the Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate (SKI) verified its satisfaction with the changes and
 existing procedures but required further information from Forsmark to show that management gave improvements to safety adequate priority.

At this time, three members of Forsmark's maintenance team raised some safety concerns with the plant manager, who asked them to compile a report, for consideration alongside other analyses. It was subsequently distributed within the organisation and contributed to a 60-point program to improve safety.

The report, which was obtained by Swedish TV channel SVT, states that:

  • Internal forms for reporting safety-related events had been redesigned without the industry-standard 'Lessons learned' section due to lack of use. 
  • A 2004 peer review conducted by the World Association of Nuclear Operators (Wano) resulted in Forsmark being told to improve its scaffolding practices. More strict rules were introduced in early 2005, but there were still 15 incidents involving scaffolding during the 2006 outage at Forsmark 2. 
  • Staff and contractors often ignored radiation protection rules by not wearing shoe protection and wearing gear from protected areas in declassified areas. These violations of procedure are not a serious safety threat, but indicate a poor safety culture among staff. 
Göran Lundgren, head of Vattenfall Nordic Generation, said in a Vattenfall release that the report was "only one of the analyses that were initiated following the [shutdown] events last summer," adding: "Of these 60 points, some 20 have been fully implemented, just over 30 are underway and those with the lowest priority will be started in 2007."

"I am convinced that the program we have initiated will strengthen the safety of Forsmark nuclear power plant," said Lundgren. He later told SVT that Forsmark's management board would be reinforced with people specifically assigned to coordinate safety improvements. Sweden's Environment Minister, Andreas Carlgren, has said that regulations are adequate and no changes are necessary.

SVT's reports also revealed that some workers had failed random drug and alcohol tests. Forsmark have said that of 380 tests con ducted on employees and contractors entering the site in 2006, three were sent home for alcohol, while three others were sent home for drugs. All th 
e workers sent home were subcontractors and not Forsmark employees. One w as later found to have taken only prescription medication. 

Lundgren said: "Forsmark performs drug tests on all new recruits, as well as contractors. These are followed by random checks, and if anyone is found to be under the influence of drugs they are immediately sent home in accordance with our routines. It goes without saying that there is zero tolerance against drugs at Forsmark."

Further information


Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate (SKI)

WNN Nuclear Event Reports:
 INES-rating due to earlier event at Forsmark 1 - Two emergency DG did not start when the unit was disconnected from the ordinary off-site grid

WNN Nuclear Event Reports: Two emergency diesel generators did not start when the unit was disconnected from the ordinary off site grid

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