The two reactors at Hunterston B nuclear power plant near Ardrossan are 43 years old – the oldest in Europe. They’re already well beyond their operating lifetimes, which have twice been extended by EDF Energy, and they’re scheduled to close down for good in 2023. However, there’s a serious safety fault in the reactors. The fault is known as keyway root-cracking: where the graphite moderator cores in the reactors develop cracks leading to instabilities that could lead to a major nuclear accident: which would lead to a large swathe of Scotland’s central belt having to be evacuated. The reactors have been closed since October 2018 as a result, but owners EDF Energy are currently making a case for turning them back on, with help from trade union GMB. Although the probability of a meltdown is still low, the consequences could be incredibly severe. In such an event, both Glasgow and Edinburgh would need to be entirely evacuated due to radioactive contamination. According to Dr Ian Fairlie, an independent consultant on radioactivity in the environment, and Dr David Toke, Reader in Energy Policy at the University of Aberdeen, the two reactors definitely should not be restarted. Speaking about the cracks in the barrels, they say: “This is a serious matter because if an untoward incident were to occur – for example an earth tremor, gas excursion, steam surge, sudden outage, or sudden depressurisation, the barrels could become dislodged and/or misaligned. “These events could in turn lead to large emissions of radioactive gases. Further, if hot spots were to occur and if nuclear fuel were to react with the graphite moderator they could lead to explosions inside the reactor core. “In the very worst case the hot graphite core could become exposed to air and ignite leading to radioactive contamination of large areas of central Scotland, including the metropolitan areas of Glasgow and Edinburgh.”
Edinburgh Live 8th March 2019 read more »
On March 8, the BBC published a news item about cracks in the Hunterston B nuclear reactors. Whilst it is good that the story highlighted reporting of the safety issues surrounding the plant and, in particular, included photographs of the cracked graphite core, we wish to correct several inaccuracies. The BBC article claims that early decommissioning could cause serious energy supply problems. This is simply not the case and is alarmist nonsense: the reality is that Scotland has, if anything, an oversupply of electricity. Both Hunterston and Torness could be closed without problem to Scotland’s electricity supplies. The BBC article then states that “Concerns have also been raised about the consequences for local jobs if Hunterston closed early.”As pointed out in our article, few if any jobs would be lost if the reactors Hunterston B were closed permanently: dealing with the immense heat rates from radioactive decay even from closed reactors will guarantee jobs there for the first 2 to 3 years. After that decommissioning will provide more jobs then when the reactors operated, just as is occurring at the closed reactors at Dounreay. The BBC cites Councillor Tom Marshall as stating: “Most of the large employers round about here have disappeared – and this is one of the last major employers. So, if it is safe to run most people locally would be happy to see it running.” We obviously share the concerns of local people about deindustrialisation and the appalling effects of the UK Government’s uncivilised austerity programmes in Scotland. But local councillors should not be misled by incorrect statements by the nuclear industry. Closing Hunterston B for good will not lead to large numbers of job losses: the contrary in fact.
Ianfairlie 8th March 2019 read more »
Dave Toke’s Blog 8th March 2019 read more »
CONCERN was growing last night after pictures emerged of widening cracks inside the nuclear reactor at Hunterston power station in Ayrshire. It was known that the reactor, number three at the Hunterston B plant, had over 370 cracks in its graphite fuel bricks that were found during routine inspections last year and which in turn led to the reactor being shut down. Owners EDF Energy admitted yesterday that some of the hairline cracks were widening faster than expected. They posted a video online and issued a letter to local people stating information about the inspection process. The letter said: “When we take the reactor offline for an inspection the way we are able to identify keyway root cracking is by using specialist equipment to film and take measurements of the inside of the graphite fuel bricks. We do this by safely removing the fuel stringer from a channel then we pass a camera down the inside. Keyway root cracks are extremely narrow when they occur and this method allows us to observe very fine cracks, as small as 0.5mm wide; like the tip of a fine pen.” EDF added that footage from the problem reactor “shows a crack that had an average width of 1.1mm at first inspection and has grown by around 1.8mm to 2.9mm wide.” The plant’s director Colin Weir told BBC Scotland that the company would ask for the reactor to be re-started, saying: “Nuclear safety is our overriding priority and reactor three has been off for the year so that we can do further inspections. We’ve carried out one of our biggest ever inspection campaigns on reactor three; we’ve renewed our modelling, we’ve done experiments and tests and we’ve analysed all the data from this to produce our safety case that we will submit to the Office for Nuclear Regulation.”
The National 9th March 2019 read more »
Footage has been released of cracks found inside a reactor at a nuclear plant in Scotland. The unit at Hunterston B in North Ayrshire has not been operating after the cracks were found to be growing faster than expected. In March last year a planned inspection of the graphite bricks that make up the core of reactor 3 uncovered new “keyway root cracks”. EDF Energy, which owns and operates the plant, said these have now grown to an average of 2mm wide. The firm has released footage of the cracks, which was taken in 2017 and 2018.
Guardian 8th March 2019 read more »
The operational limit for the latest period of operation was 350 cracks but EDF plans to ask the regulator for a new operational limit of up to 700 cracks. Hunterston B is expected to continue producing electricity until 2023 – but it could be forced into decommissioning before then because of the cracks. The 10metre-high, 1,400-tonne reactor is made up of 3,000 graphite bricks and the plant provides electricity for 1.8 million homes when all the reactors are running.
Independent 8th March 2019 read more »
Daily Record 8th March 2019 read more »
Glasgow Evening Times 8th March 2019 read more »
Gloucester Live 8th March 2019 read more »
Sky News 8th March 2019 read more »
Herald 8th March 2019 read more »
Mirror 8th March 2019 read more »
Dundee Courier 8th March 2019 read more »
The company accepts that the cracking is ‘life-limiting’ for the reactor but will not say what it believes to be a limit beyond which it would be unsafe to operate. Concerns have also been raised about the consequences for 700 local jobs if Hunterston closed early. Largs councillor Tom Marshall said: “Most of the large employers round about here have disappeared – from Greenock all the way down to Kilmarnock – and this is one of the last major employers.”So, if it is safe to run most people locally would be happy to see it running.”
Largs & Millport News 8th March 2019 read more »
Ardrossan Herald 8th March 2019 read more »