NUCLEAR bosses have moved to allay fears after smoke was seen rising from one of Oldbury’s reactors.

People living near Oldbury Power Station witnessed plumes of smoke escaping from one of the site’s two reactors last Thursday.

Jonathan Bailey, a local resident who witnessed the smoke, said: "From this view the clouds of steam were as wide as the power station and there was a loud roaring noise."

According to Magnox, which operates the site, workers had been carrying out routine maintenance when a small relay overheated and the reactor shut down.

A spokesman said: "Because the turbine tripped the steam produced in the boilers couldn’t be sent to the turbine as it would normally and so was released through relief valves on top of the building.

"To reduce the amount of steam being produced, and in accordance with expectations, the reactor automatically tripped and was safely shut down."

Reactor 2 will remain shut down while officials carry out routine inspections.

However, the incident at Oldbury came as people living near the site expressed concerns about nuclear safety following events in Japan.

On March 11 a magnitude nine earthquake off the north east coast of Japan triggered a tsunami, which has so far killed more than 9,000 people.

As well as thousands of buildings and homes, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was also severely damaged.

For more than a week nuclear workers in the country have been battling to control the nuclear power plant and its six reactors.

Phil Sprague, site director at Oldbury, said Magnox reactors were a different design to those used in Japan, and there were systems in place to maintain cooling after a shutdown. He added all Magnox stations had been assessed against the effects of earthquakes.

"We have full confidence in the safety of our reactors. Our regulator, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, has similarly expressed its confidence that the Magnox reactors, and the rest of the UK’s fleet of nuclear reactors, are prepared appropriately for seismic activity," he said.

Magnox provides information on what to do in an emergency for people within a three-kilometre radius of Oldbury Power Station.

The company works closely with South Gloucestershire Council’s emergency planning department on a multi-agency plan, which is exercised and updated regularly.

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