THE prolonged closure of an ageing and cracked reactor at Hunterston in North Ayrshire is the beginning of the end for seven nuclear power stations in Scotland and England, experts say. They doubt whether the reactor will ever restart, and argue that proliferating cracks in other elderly reactors across the country will shorten their expected lives and lead to premature shutdowns. One expert said extending the life of troubled reactors like the one at Hunterston is “gambling with public safety”. Hunterston’s operator, EDF Energy, however, insisted that it would be able to reopen the reactor. Its other reactors would also run for as long as planned, the company said. But according to independent nuclear engineer John Large, the new cracks signal the “death knell” for Hunterston reactor three. “This means that reactor four is doomed to the same fate, followed by similar plants at Hinkley Point and Hartlepool, thereafter progressively followed by other advanced gas-cooled reactors,” he said. Reactor 3 is now scheduled to reopen on November 17. The company said it had found a total of 39 “keyway root cracks” in the reactor and they were “happening at a slightly higher rate than modelled”. The integrity of the thousands of graphite blocks that make up the reactor core is vital to nuclear safety. They ensure that the reactor can be cooled and safely shut down in an emergency. Large argued that EDF’s decision to keep reactor three closed until the end of the year was prompted by the UK Government’s safety watchdog, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). “ONR’s doubts about the reactor safety have not been satisfied by this most recent inspection,” he said. “It may simply be a way of saving face and fobbing off the announcement that the plant is to be permanently shut down.” The six other advanced gas-cooled reactor plants in the UK are also likely to crack, including the only other working nuclear power station in Scotland at Torness in East Lothian. The others are: Hinkley Point B in Somerset; Hartlepo ol in County Durham; Heysham 1 and 2 near Lancaster; and Dungeness B in Kent. Large also highlighted the uncertainties in tracking cracks, which are mostly modelled rather than measured. “There is little that EDF can do to physically resolve this problem,” he said. Meanwhile, Edinburgh-based nuclear critic and consultant Pete Roche pointed out that Hunterston is now 42 years old. “This must surely be the end for reactor three,” he said. “We are gambling with public safety by extending the lives of old reactors.” He expects Hinkley Point B to close “very soon”, followed by other nuclear stations in England. “Even Torness has passed the 30-year threshold, so may not make it to its expected 2030 closure date,” Roche said. Rita Holmes, a local resident who chairs the Hunterston site stakeholder group, argued it would be very difficult for the public to have confidence in the safety of reactor three. “It has had its day and should be allowed to bow out gracefully,” she said.
Sunday Herald 6th May 2018 read more »
How can we persuade the government to Close ALL the Dodgy Old Nuclear Reactors Before the Unthinkable Happens? From Scotland to the North West to Dungeness, EDF is running dodgy old nuclear reactors which should have been shut down long ago. From Scotland the Sunday Herald reports “new cracks at Hunterston nuclear reactor raise radiation accident fears”
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