Three accidents have ocurred within the past 10 days at three nuclear power stations in West Germany, and one in particular is seriously troubling officials here.
The concern is focused on an accident at the 800-megawatt nuclear power station at Brunsbuettel, in northern Germany, near the city of Kiel in which small amounts of radioactive steam escaped into the atmosphere.
A parliamentary commission investigating the mishap disclosed Friday that technicians attempting to repair ruptured piping in the plant reactor turbine underestimated the seriousness of the problem and a potentially much more dangerous leak was averted when the reactor shut down purely by chance.
What is troubling officials just as much, however, is that the public was not informed about the accident until last Tuesday, two days after it occurred, and only after the German press agency had received an anonymous telephone tip.
The plant is operated jointly by the Hamburg Electric Power Works and the Northwest German Electric Works. A spokesman for the plant said later: "We were not aware of the urgency of telling the public."
Local officials in the state of Schleswig-Holstein said they were not informed that the leak was radioactive until Monday. That, in turn, has raised questions in Bonn about why the local government did not inform the local population sooner.
"The incident was a serious one," the West German Research Ministry's spokesman. A. Bodo Baars, said in a telephone interview. He was concerned not because it caused any damage, which apparently it did not, "but because of the way it started. Human factors played quite a role," he said, in reference to the technical misjudgments.
"But what also concerns us is the way the public was informed, or more precisely the way the informing of the public was not carried out," he said. "That bothers us."
Five days after the initial incident, engineers at the nuclear power station at Biblis - the largest one in Europe - discovered a leakage of radioactive water in the reactor block when fuel elements were being removed for a routine inspection. The leak, was not dangerous, a spokesman said, because it was contained within the station by a six-foot thick shielding wall.
Last Friday, it was reported that a bulldozer had inadvertently severed an underground drainage pipe leading from an experimental marine reactor facility at Geesthacht. The water moving through the pipe was not highly radioactive reactor waste water but water used for cleaning purposes inside the plant.
But about 2,000 gallons of this water, which a report said was radioactively " weak" and not dangerous, seeped into the Elbe river before workmen realized the pipe was broken.
The marine plant is in the same state as the Brunsbuettel reactor and this second incident, while apparently not serious, has increased tension among local residents.
Ironically, it is to Schleswig-Holstein and the neighboring state of lower Saxony where anti-nuclear power. Environmentals have gained considerable political strength in recent months. They pulled enough votes from the established parties to knock one of them - the small but vital FreeDemocratic Party that rules in coalition with the Social-Democrats at the federal level - out of two state parliaments in elections earlier this month.