Nuclear plant’s memory stick alert

Hartlepool power Station
Hartlepool power Station

HARTLEPOOL’S nuclear power station was caught up in an international alert after a Government inspector lost a USB memory stick.

But today, power station bosses allayed fears when they told the Hartlepool Mail the information was nothing more than technical data which had been publicly available for weeks.

Details of the memory stick, which was lost at a nuclear conference in India, emerged today as Prime Minister David Cameron was expected to give huge support to the next generation of nuclear power plants, including a planned new build in Hartlepool.

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Mr Cameron was in France for talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy to seal a landmark agreement to co-operate on civil nuclear energy, paving the way for the construction of a new generation of power plants in the UK.

Meanwhile, officials back home eased fears over the effects of the missing memory stick.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) confirmed that a “stress test” report on the plant was illicitly downloaded on to a USB memory stick and then mislaid - but its content was not highly sensitive.

The information on the memory stick was all about stress tests which were carried out as part of the UK’s review of all its nuclear power plants in the aftermath of the disaster at the Fukushima plant in March last year.

The subsequent Weightman Report showed the UK had a strong safety culture and there was no need for immediate safety improvements.

A spokesman for the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) said: “An ONR member of staff lost an unencrypted USB pen drive containing the licensee’s ‘stress test’ of a UK nuclear power station, which is a safety assessment of the station.

“It did not contain any significantly sensitive information. At the start of the EC ‘stress test’ programme, the licensees of all UK nuclear power stations committed to publishing their stress test reports, so most of the findings in this report are now in the public domain.

“The use of unencrypted USB pen drives is not permitted by ONR for transporting documents with a security classification. An internal investigation has been undertaken by ONR.”

Action is believed to have been taken against the official who lost the memory stick but ONR officials would not give more detail.

Officials at EDF Energy, which owns the power station, also refuted claims that any of the information was sensitive.

A spokesman said: “There was nothing in this report of any significant safety or security concern.

“In fact, the full set of stress test reports have been available on EDF Energy’s website since January”.

David Cameron, meanwhile, is in Paris today to sign deals which would trigger the start of nuclear new build projects.

He said the agreements were “just the beginning” of investment which the Government believes could be worth £60 billion and create 30,000 jobs.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Cameron said: “The deals signed today will create more than 1,500 jobs in the UK but they are just the beginning. My goal is clear. I want the vast majority of the content of our new nuclear plants to be constructed, manufactured and engineered by British companies. And we will choose the partners and technologies to maximise the economic benefits to the UK.”

Hartlepool is in a list of eight sites where new nuclear power stations could be built.

However, the first wave of plants will be at Hinkley Point in Somerset and Sizewell in Suffolk.

A planned new nuclear build for Hartlepool alone would see 450 permanent and 3,000 temporary jobs created for the town.