Thursday, March 24, 2011

AP: Romanian official: Nuclear plant is safe

CERNAVODA, Romania – Two Romanian nuclear reactors are safe and could withstand a huge earthquake, the manager of the Cernavoda nuclear plant said Wednesday.

Ionel Bucur said the Italian and Canadian-built plant in eastern Romania is prepared to withstand a Fukushima-type emergency.

In Japan, levels of radiation have spiked, seeping into some vegetables and the water supply since a magnitude-9 quake and killer tsunami crippled the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant nearly two weeks ago.

Managers of the Cernavoda plant, some 150 kilometers (90 miles) east of Bucharest, invited journalists for discussions on plant safety after fears arose following the events in Japan.

Production manager Dan Bigu appeared unnerved by the prospect of a major quake. A 7.2-magnitude tremor killed over 1,500 people, most of them in the capital Bucharest, in 1977.

"There is no vulnerability which would put its safety into question," Bigu said. He explained the plant has 2,500 tons of water to ensure cooling for the reactors, for 15 hours, in the absence of electricity, together with two diesel generators.

The plant was built on the Danube to have direct access to water for cooling and it supplies about 20 percent of Romania's electricity needs. The first reactor began operating in 1997 and the second in 2007.

Since Fukushima, Romanian officials, including president Traian Basescu, have expressed confidence that the nuclear plant is safe even if there is a 7.5-magnitude earthquake.

Bucur said new European Union safety standards are likely to be imposed following Fukushima. He said it was unclear how these standards will influence plans to build two new reactors at Cernavoda.

"I am not worried...because the project is solid." The two new reactors will require an enlarged channel to bring water from the Danube.

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