‘Significant’ fire among 76 incidents at UK’s biggest power plant

On the afternoon of 19 September 2009, a fire erupted at North Yorkshire’s huge coal power station Drax after a routine waste burning was botched.

The fire, though it didn’t happen inside the power station itself, was listed by the Environment Agency (EA) as a ‘category 2’ occurrence — having caused ‘significant’ environmental impacts on air, land and water.

This was the standout incident in a list of 76 that happened between 2009-2014, provided to Unearthed by the EA after a Freedom of Information request.

Like the UK oil spills and gas data we published the recently, most of these incidents are small scale — 15 had no environmental impact and 57 caused ‘minor’ impacts.

But four incidents were deemed “significant” – three of which were consequences of the aforementioned Drax fire.

Drax, the country’s largest electricity generator and carbon emitter, for instance, has now been running for 40 years and is nearing the end of its lifespan, as the advised coal plant lifespan is between 20 and 50 years.

The other ‘significant’ environmental incident occurred in June 2009 at Maxibrite’s Mwyndy Industrial Estate in South Wales where the ‘gradual’ failure of the process plant caused a gas leak of ‘category 2’-proportions.

We’ve made the spreadsheet of the data available here.