In Brief

Major fire at Didcot B power station investigated

'The whole tower was up in flames with smoke billowing into the sky,' says one Didcot resident

An investigation has been launched after a major fire broke out at Didcot B power station in Oxfordshire last night.

Dozens of firefighters and 25 fire engines were called in to tackle the blaze after it broke out in one of the cooling towers at around 8pm.

Several people were working on the site at the time, but nobody was injured and the fire was brought under control within about two hours.

Officials have ruled out arson and terrorism, but are yet to determine the cause of the fire.

Thames Valley Police had advised local residents to stay indoors and keep their windows and doors closed, but Oxfordshire chief fire officer Dave Etheridge has since said there is no risk to the public.

Steve Shadbolt, who lives opposite the station, told The Times: "There was this incredibly bright light and for a moment I couldn't work out what it was. Then I saw the whole tower was up in flames with smoke billowing into the sky. About ten minutes later a second tower caught fire, which made the whole night light up."

The gas-fired power station facility, owned by RWE npower, has been partly closed. However, Energy Secretary Ed Davey said National Grid had assured him that there was no risk to energy supplies.

Didcot B, which produces enough electricity to power a million homes, opened in 1997. The fire comes less than three months after Didcot A was demolished in a controlled explosion.

Neil Scott, the plant's station manager, told ITV that half of the plant is running normally and said he was "pretty confident" that the rest of the plant would be up and running by the end of the week.

The Times warns that if it remains shut down for a long period it would worsen the risk of power shortages this winter. The spare capacity in Britain's power system, the difference between the maximum available supply and peak demand, is "already tight", says the newspaper, and has been further eroded by safety issues at two nuclear power stations, Heysham 1 and Hartlepool.

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