Oxford

Didcot power station collapse: 'Safer' to use robots to plant charges

Didcot Power Station collapse Image copyright Thames Valley Police
Image caption Demolition work was taking place at the plant when it collapsed in February

Robots should be used to place demolition charges at the base of the collapsed Didcot power station because using people "carries inherent risks to life", the site owner has said.

RWE Npower is planning to bring down the remains of the boiler house at the Didcot A plant which partly collapsed in February, killing four men.

Three bodies are yet to be recovered.

The energy company said using remote-operated vehicles (ROVs) was preferable "since it limits the risk to life".

It called the conditions caused by the collapse "unprecedented at this scale in the UK".

A spokesman said the "traditional demolition method, which would require people to go underneath the structure to place demolition charges to bring down the building" would risk lives "because the building cannot be proven to be stable".

"The ROV option is the preferred route, with the traditional method being prepared as a back-up, should the robotic option not prove reliable."

Image copyright AP
Image caption The cause of the collapse is being investigated jointly by police and the Health and Safety Executive

Plans are being finalised and are due to be submitted to the Health and Safety Executive.

The spokesman added: "We understand that the time taken to recover the families' loved ones is deeply upsetting... our priority remains the recovery of the missing men and we are doing everything that is within our power to ensure it is progressed as fast and safely as possible."

Work to recover the men's bodies had been halted because contractors have reached a 50m (164 ft) exclusion zone.

In Oxfordshire County Council cabinet papers published earlier the cost to Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service of attending the incident and subsequent search and recovery operations stands at £300,000.

The length of time to recover Christopher Huxtable, 34, from Swansea, Ken Cresswell, 57, and John Shaw, 61, both from Rotherham, has previously been criticised by some family members.

John Howley, the uncle of Mr Cresswell, described it as "diabolical".

Labour MP for Rotherham Sarah Champion also branded it a "national scandal".

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