Part of the giant Hinkley Point nuclear plant will have to be demolished and rebuilt after inspectors found problems with its concrete foundations, in the latest setback for the £20bn project. EDF, the owner, is understood to have found weaknesses in a small area of the foundations that have been laid on the Somerset coast. The French energy giant insisted the problem is isolated to 150 cubic metres where pipes and cables are due to be laid, and said it will not delay construction. Yet the discovery will raise concerns about the plant, which will house Britain’s first new nuclear reactors in a generation. EDF admitted in July that costs at Hinkley, which is being bankrolled by the French and Chinese governments, would rise by £1.5bn to £20.3bn and that it may be completed 15 months later than its December 2025 deadline. Hinkley’s two sister plants, Flamanville in France and Olkiluoto in Finland, have suffered hefty cost hikes and long delays. The problems were found in a patch of “substitution” concrete that forms the foundations of the first of the site’s 5 miles of “galleries” — a series of deep trenches that will house the plant’s pipes and electric cables. The inspection found problems including “weak concrete”, “poor-quality cleanliness” and an area of concrete that was not wide enough. Fixing the problem will mean demolishing another layer of “slab” concrete that had been poured on top of the foundations. EDF said there were no problems with the rest of the galleries that have since been built — or with the nuclear island, the critical base on which the reactors will be built. EDF added that the problematic concrete was a fraction of the 60,000 cubic metres of concrete that have already been poured at Hinkley.

Times 15th Oct 2017 read more »

More than 300,000 tonnes of “radioactive” mud, some of it the toxic byproduct of Britain’s atomic weapons programme, will be dredged to make way for England’s newest nuclear power station and dumped in the Severn estuary just over a mile from Cardiff. Politicians in Wales have denounced the move, with one accusing the Welsh government of selling out to London and the nuclear lobby. They have called on ministers to commit to further radiological tests before giving consent for the process, which is crucial for the construction of Hinkley Point C across the estuary in Somerset. An independent marine pollution researcher, Tim Deere-Jones, who is also a prominent nuclear power critic, has warned that the dumped sediment could re-concentrate into more powerful radioactive material and be washed ashore in storm surges. “We know sediment in mudflats can dry out and blow ashore and that fine sediment with radioactivity attached can transfer to the land in marine aerosols and sea spray,” Deere-Jones said. Studies of north Wales tidal surges, he added, had revealed that the deposited mud and sand were heavily contaminated with radioactivity from Sellafield.

Guardian 14th Oct 2017 read more »


Published: 15 October 2017