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author's profile photo Marco Büscher

Visit of the nuclear power plant Lingen Germany, experience report

I want to tell you a Story about visiting a power plant, If it is wrong here, pls let me know... so... We met at the visitor center of the Lingen nuclear power plant. By "we" I mean three other people whose names, however, I do not want to mention in view of the current situation around the ANF company in Lingen and further noisy discussions about nuclear power. To get in there we had already passed the first hurdle. Apparently, nothing criminal was noted in our files, so we had been approved for a guided tour through the nuclear power plant without any concerns. It is good that these controls are thorough and rigorous. Such a control requires a lead time of several weeks and included, among other things, an official police clearance certificate as well as further checks. We were already expected at the entrance by our guide.

First we received our safety helmets and our safety goggles. Unfortunately it is not allowed to take pictures, it looked really professional how we looked in the orange suits. In the visitor center we first got to see some models of the site. Then more models of the various water circuits, models of the fuel rods cast in glass, and various exhibits of measuring instruments, etc. After the briefing on the topology of the site and the power plant, we now first moved onto the site. After passing through the airlock, we were checked by two security guards for weapons and unauthorized items. One employee even had his hand ready to hand on the holster in case one of us was carrying a weapon. Of course, we all passed through this checkpoint without further incident. We were then given visitor badges, which we had to wear on our hands for the entire tour.

Then we were sent through a Geiger counter lock, where it was proven that we were not contaminated even at the time of entering. The result of the measurement said that none of us was contaminated and also I could now finally be sure that I was not permanently contaminated after having dealt with radioactive radiation on an NBC training course of the Bundeswehr. Now it went further and we were requested to take off our civilian clothes, completely! We stowed them in lockers and exchanged them for dark blue nuclear underwear and an orange-colored overall and green bathing slippers. Personal items such as jewelry now also had to be taken off and stowed in the locker. After another security lock, the bathing slippers were exchanged for orange socks and rubber boots. We learned that this conspicuous orange serves to be found more easily under the rubble in the event of an accident. At the airlock, which now had to be passed, we also had to exchange our visitor badges for dosimeters. These dosimeters have the task of measuring and recording the radioactive radiation continuously acting on a person inside the reactor dome. The then measured value of the dosimeter is entered into a register and is always kept person-related. This database is unique in the world and is valid for a lifetime because it contains information on how much radiation a person has been exposed to in the course of his or her entire life. Airline pilots also have such a dosimeter, since they are exposed to increased radioactive radiation on long-haul flights in higher air layers. Normally, however, this is not harmful to health for the rest of their working lives, but it is always recorded for safety reasons. Our visitor badges are now officially attached to a status board. In the event of a disaster, this board provides information about who and how many people are currently in the reactor dome.

Now we entered the reactor dome through a gigantic vacuum lock. This dome is more precisely a sphere and it is encased in a two meter thick concrete wall. This sphere itself is made of 38 mm thick steel. It was designed as a sphere to absorb as much damage as possible in case of an impact of an object from the outside, e.g. a crashing airplane. This idea sounds absurd, but it is not so far-fetched, because only a few kilometers away from the Lingen nuclear power plant is a bombing range of the German armed forces, where the jets of the surrounding tactical Lutwaffengeschwader of the BW practice bombing from the air. In the reactor dome we were again informed by an engineer of the nuclear power plant in detail about the functioning of the nuclear power plant inside the reactor. The employee of the NPP answered all our questions and explained and also things far beyond. For example, how the Castor containers get in and out of the dome. Or which chemical composition the liquid in the decay basin should have so that nothing goes wrong there. The time there flew by and was really exciting. Inside the reactor there is a negative pressure and it is also quite warm which quickly led to the fact that we got thirsty. Unfortunately, we could not even drink something there, because we were not allowed to take things inside. To prevent even the smallest particles of dust from getting into or out of the reactor room, an adhesive strip is placed on the floor in front of the negative pressure lock over which the employees have to walk before and after entering the dome. Particles on the shoe then stick to the film and can be disposed of. This shows once again how much importance is attached to cleanliness. At any time I had the impression that someone always knew where we were in this incredibly large complex and thus we also had a feeling of security.

After visiting the dome, we went into the space between the concrete shell and the steel dome or steel sphere. Here again buffers for e.g. earthquakes were built in. Now we had to prove our endurance, because we had to climb some stairs to get to the machine hall. This meant that we really had to overcome many meters of altitude. At the end of these stairs, which were also used to inspect the walls, we came to an elevator that took us back down. To my astonishment, this one didn't have any floors on the display but 'meters above zero'. So I did not go to a floor but to meters seven, eleven or zero. By now, however, we were all really thirsty. The negative pressure and the heat had made us very thirsty. Our guide warned us that it would get even hotter when we entered the machine hall. After we had already passed a few locks in reverse, we were now asked to wash ourselves thoroughly once again. We were instructed to use the deco soap. And Deko soap means here not to the decoration, it means to the decontamination of the radiation. What I had to determine also immediately with the first attempt to pass the lock, because I was contaminated. Probably I touched a contaminated banister inside the dome while going up a staircase. After the Geiger counter of the airlock had triggered an alarm, I was again led into the decontamination room to clean the affected area even more thoroughly with DeKo soap. At the second attempt to pass the airlock, the Geiger counter gave the green light and I was allowed to leave the high-security area.

For the last part of the tour, it was no longer necessary to wear the orange-colored protective clothing, so we now arrived at the controlled removal of the nuclear power plant clothing and its delivery to the laundry room. This is also done in a very orderly and structured manner. So that the worn laundry is not brought together with the civilian clothes and these on the last meters thereby perhaps even still contaminated. At the latest now we all would have liked to have a picture how we looked in the orange suit with rubber boots and hair net. During the three hours that the tour lasted, we were forbidden to take any food or liquid. Probably so that no particles got into the body this way. Now we finally had the opportunity to quench our thirst at the water dispenser and also relieved the nearby candy machine of all its chocolate.

So after we had put on our civilian clothes again, we made our way to the machine hall. (((Picture from the internet, machine hall))). Before we entered this building, our personal protective clothing was extended by earplugs and safety glasses, because the rotating shaft at the turbine makes a hell of a noise. Yes, friction generates heat, and our guide was right: in addition to all the noise, we also felt a strong heat. Unfortunately, it is so loud there that you can not really talk and so the visual impressions had to suffice for the time being. This was more or less the end of the tour. Many thanks to all who made this possible!

Conclusion: After the visit I was more reassured than before and had the feeling that it is safe there.

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3 Comments

  • Feb 05 at 04:42 PM

    Interesting story, Marco! But most importantly, are they an SAP customer? :)

    There is a nuclear plant not far from where I live. Not many people even know about it, it's sitting in the middle of the woods.

    There are no public tours (for safety reasons, I guess) but they had before covid a Family Day every year when anyone could stop by the visitor center for some presentations and just look around. We got a chance to go on a short tour of their non-restricted areas, saw the control panel that they use for trainings.

    Among other things, I learned that bananas are radioactive. :)

  • Feb 11 at 08:33 AM

    I agree with Jelena, very interesting experience. I didn't know that yet, I even didn't make up my mind how it would look inside such a plant so thank you for sharing!

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