A Sizewell nuclear disaster was thankfully avoided due to dirty laundry. This all happened when a contractor at the plant noticed that water was leaking out from a radioactive cooling pond. This causes a significant risk to the public, as well as the operators at the plant.
One morning when a contractor, that was working on decommissioning the Sizewell A nuclear power station on the Suffolk coast, was in the laundry room, he noticed that there was water on the floor that was leaking from the pond that holds the reactor’s highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel.
Reports show that almost 40,000 gallons of this radioactive water had spilled out of a 15ft long split in a pipe. Some of the water had leaked out into the North Sea. The pond water level had already dropped by a foot, but none of the alarms in the plant had sounded in the main control room.
Although safety patrols are performed all the time, by the time the next one was scheduled, the pond level would have been so low that the water would have exposed the nuclear fuel rods. When these rods are uncovered from the water, there is the possibility that they can overheat and catch fire. This would send a plume of radioactive contamination along the coastline.
The HM Nuclear Installation Inspectorate reported that people at the planet, and even members of the nearby public, would have been badly harmed if it was not for the contractor who just happened to be doing his dirty laundry at the right time. He was able to see a problem and inform the right people.