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Exploring around the only nuclear power plant in the Netherlands

Testing a new geiger counter as a TERRA-P for cabin fever

Almost 3 years ago now, I went to Chernobyl and Pripyat to witness the result of the worst nuclear accident in history. Most contaminated top soil was removed, so besides the occasional truck with soil passing by and setting of our geiger counters and speeding through the red forest, radiation was limited. Maybe I will write about that experience in a later post.

With curfews still in place, all non essential shops closed and my museum card now basically worthless, there is not much to do in or outside the Netherlands. Longing back to the carefree travels and struck by cabin fever, I ordered a geiger counter from Ukraine a couple of weeks ago, and it just arrived! With no Pripyat in the neighbourhood, no thrift stores to look for radioactive fiestaware or vaseline glass and no radiactive minerals at home, there was a next best thing. Our own little nuclear plant in Borssele, the only one still operational in the Netherlands.

The seaside around the nuclear plant is easily accessible. There is a small free parking space next to the fences of the plant for this beach called “kaloot”, where quite a lot of people have gathered today. Apparently this spot is also popular with fossil hunters, a couple of which can be seen crouched down at the waterline. After a complicated button sequence, I manage to switch the sound of the newly acquired geiger counter off, so not to make people worried or gain too much attention.

There are several interesting things to see here. The first thing you hear when you walk over the dune by the parking area is the cooling water outlet. There are also some other buildings up the path, and a separate smaller outlet that seems to return the oceans’ fish that get sucked up into the inlet. A hobbyist is documenting the fish and other creatures that get returned here, with a net in front of the stream and a professional camera setup.

With the background radiation in the netherlands averaging around 0.08 - 0.010μsv/h, and these values closely monitored, I don’t really find anything unexpected. According to a brochure of the town Borssele, only 0.01% of the background radiation for them is made up of radiation form the plant. I don’t think that number is correct though, or at least not for people walking their dogs in this area (the town is a bit further away).

Radiation beach

On the beach a normal value can be measured, on the low side of the average background radiation. On the path along the fencing and towards one of the outbuildings of the plant, higher values can be measured however. Anywhere from 0.13μsv/h to 0.17μsv/h can be measured along various spots on the path, one of the highest measurements shown below;

Radiation pathway

These values are still very low though, and nothing to be worried about. On a plane for example, you will get a 3μsv/h dose - 18 times higher - and that is still nothing to worry about.

There is another interesting nuclear related facility close by here, the COVRA. These brightly colored buildings are storing depleted uranium in the form of u3o8 as the side of the blue building says.

Nuclear storage at COVRA

From where this picture was taken, not any difference in radiation could be measured, and I was not planning to go closer. According to an annual report by the Dutch ministry for public health, radiation is a bit higher, but also nothing to worry about here.

Apparently, you could join a guided tour here before the pandemic hit, I will definitely do so when it is possible again!

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