Remembering Terry Pratchett

In 1986 I was editor of a Cardiff based trades union newspaper, Union Eyes. I put together a piece about events at Hinkley Point A Power Station two years earlier, which although over the water in Somerset, has Cardiff in its direct line of fire if anything goes badly wrong.
This was a story that started with a leaked document, some pages from the Turbine Hall Basement logbook, which was sent anonymously to Paddy Ashdown’s office. I spoke to his researcher to find out more, but they had sent a copy to an engineering academic to look at and advise them of its significance, and were unwilling to send me one as well. As an ex Power Station Manager who had spent a short time at Hinkley I was confident that if I saw it, I could work out what had actually happened. Without a copy I was stymied, so I rang the CEGB Press Office in Bristol, where I spoke to an exceptionally helpful man.
“Did I have a copy of the leaked document?” “Well, no actually, I don’t.” “Would you like a copy….would a photo be helpful well?” He couldn’t have been more helpful, and bear in mind not only was this effectively stolen goods, but CEGB policy was not to release any more information than was in the public domain already. I thanked him and as an ex-employee myself, promised “not to be too unfair to the CEGB”.

What I found from this document when it arrived in the post, was really troubling. Two years earlier, following a trip on Reactor 1, all the instrumentation had failed. During this time someone had tried to alter the main cooling water valve settings to keep the other Reactor, No 2, and Turbines 1, 2 and 3 on load. In the process they accidentally shut off all the water to both Reactors, damaging the pumps and risking a complete Reactor meltdown. Luckily it was spotted and the water was turned back on before it went up Fukushima style.
I was concerned the Press Officer had gone beyond his remit, and like all good journalists I always looked after my sources, so I when wrote up the story I simply stated that I had “managed to obtain a copy” of the logbook pages. Only after reading Terry’s obituary last week did I realise who the very helpful Press Officer was. Sadly its too late to thank him personally, so all I can say is….Terry, you were one of the good guys. R.I.P.

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