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Petrochemical & Nuclear Plant Fires

Fires in Petrochemical Plants

This category of fire can be extremely devastating and the effects far reaching, although infrequent with many having been the result of negligence including inadequate fire prevention. International examples of some of these tragedies are Flixborough in1974, Piper Alpha in 1988, the Buncefield Storage Tank farm fire 2005, Texas City Refinery explosion in 2005 and the Deepwater Horizon offshore rig fire and explosion in 2010.

These catastrophic incidents have been the subject of costly investigations over long periods of time, and have resulted in new regulations, modifications, amendments in codes of practice and guidelines. Despite these measures, there are repetitions of incidents, again, usually arising from lack of care and control. There are within the UK, several pieces of law in existence, which go a long way towards reducing these hazardous accidents.

Care & Attention around Hazardous Substances

Petrochemical facilities vary in nature, from the simpler form of production, storage and collector areas, to more complex facilities where large quantities of raw products are kept for processing. This situation is further complicated by a system of distribution terminals, materials logistics and offshore facilities connected to the onshore plant. These arrangements need appropriate controls and emergency planning in order to satisfy health and safety requirements. Without the strictest control on several fronts, there is always a high likelihood of a potential incident involving hazardous substances.

Multiple forms of organic and man made hazardous materials which are vulnerable to ignition and have low flashpoints, mean close observation is needed at every stage of production. Additional risks arise due to these substances having to be handled by operating staff during processing.

Nuclear Reactor Incidents

A fire occurred in 1957 in Windscale on the North coast of England, it was ranked as level 5 severity out of a possible 7 on the International Nuclear Scale, and was the worst in the UK's history. Beginning in Unit 1, the fire lasted 3 days and released radioactive contamination which spread across the UK and Europe. Nobody was evacuated from the area, and there was an increase in cancer cases thought to be associated with this incident. Another major incident involved the reactor at Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine in 1986 which affected parts of the UK.

Any fire in a nuclear plant is considered dangerous, and is likely to spread throughout the facility, making health and safety precautions essential. Practices in and around nuclear plants, especially when they were more concerned with the production of plutonium for making bombs, have in the past been questionable. Although things have changed in more recent times with stringent regulations and procedures being employed.

Specialists in Petrochemical & Nuclear Plant Fires

The nuclear industry has experienced a more positive reputation of late, and developments mean that the industry could benefit from a new generation of reactors. These are created with a view to safer and highly efficient power plants, hoped to contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable future with a wide range of uses. The concept of smaller, considerably easier to manage modular reactors with simpler designs, which will also incur less cost, is being examined.

Both petrochemical and nuclear plant fires need the attention of experienced specialists, who are aware of how to safely suppress and quench a wide variation of fire types. This requires a comprehensive knowledge base around issues like what potential combination of chemicals may be involved, and how best to deal with them effectively. Regard must be given not only to the safety of all affected, but of damage limitation to the environment also.

Petrochemical & Nuclear Plant Fires, Fires in Petrochemical Plants, Care & Attention around Hazardous Substances. Nuclear Reactor Incidents, Specialists in Petrochemical & Nuclear Plant Fires

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