More than 350 cracks have been discovered in an ageing nuclear power reactor at Hunterston in North Ayrshire, breaching an agreed safety limit and prompting calls for a permanent shutdown. Experts have warned that the cracks could lead to a “catastrophic accident” releasing clouds of radioactive contamination over Glasgow and Edinburgh. But Hunterston’s operator, EDF Energy, insisted that the reactor was safe – and is bidding to relax safety standards so that it can be restarted. Reactor three at Hunterston B nuclear power station originally started generating electricity in 1976, and is the oldest in the UK run by EDF. It has been closed down since 9 March 2018 so that its graphite core could be inspected for cracks. The reactor was initially due to restart on 30 March, but the date has been repeatedly postponed as more cracks have been found. EDF is now hoping for permission from the UK government’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to fire up the reactor on 18 December. The Ferret revealed in April that new cracks had been discovered in the reactor, but at the time neither EDF nor ONR would say how many. In May EDF said that 39 cracks had been found and they were “happening at a slightly higher rate than modelled”. Now we can report that more than 350 cracks have been discovered in reactor three. According to ONR, 350 is the “operational limit” in the safety case that determines whether or not the reactor is allowed to operate. EDF has told the local Hunterston Site Stakeholder Group that it was likely to propose to ONR that reactor three in future be permitted to run with up to 1,000 cracks. EDF has also closed down the adjacent reactor four at Hunterston to check for cracks, but hopes to reopen it on 30 November. The independent nuclear engineer, John Large, has previously argued that Hunterston reactor three should be permanent shut down. Before he died on 3 November he was helping radioactivity consultant, Dr Ian Fairlie, prepare a presentation on Hunterston. Fairlie, a former adviser to the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, shared Large’s concerns. “I worked closely with John Large in the weeks before his untimely death,” he told The Ferret. Large was concerned about the cracking causing graphite blocks to split, making the system of interlocking blocks in the reactor core less stable. “As a result, any untoward event such as a steam surge, sudden outage or earth tremor could result in a serious accident – a large release of radioactive gases,” Fairlie said.
Ferret 21st Nov 2018 read more »
BBC 21st Nov 2018 read more »
More than 350 cracks have been found in one of the reactors at the Hunterston B nuclear power station, exceeding the operational limit. Reactor three at the plant in north Ayrshire has been closed for inspection since March. Its reopening has been repeatedly postponed as more flaws have been found. The UK government’s Office for Nuclear Regulation carried out the most recent checks, according to the Ferret, a news website. “A conservative assessment of the inspection results shows that the number of cracks in reactor three exceeded the operational limit of 350 cracks in the existing safety case,” an ONR spokesman said. “It should be noted that the safety case demonstrates a significant margin beyond this limit and safe operation was ensured.” Despite this assurance, Rita Holmes, chairwoman of the Hunterston site stakeholder group, said the reactor should remain shut down.
Times 22nd Nov 2018 read more »
NUCLEAR experts have warned of a Chernobyl-like “catastrophic accident” after more than 350 cracks were discovered in the power reactor at the Hunterston plant in North Ayrshire. This breaches the Government’s agreed safety limit and has prompted calls for a permanent shutdown. Hunterston’s operator, EDF Energy, insist the reactor is safe. Reactor three at Hunterston B nuclear power station originally started generating electricity in 1976, and is the oldest in the UK. It was closed in March this year to allow inspectors to probe for cracks. The reactor was initially due to restart on 30 March, but the date has been repeatedly postponed as more cracks have been found. EDF is now hoping for permission from the UK government’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to fire up the reactor on 18 December. It follows a long-running investigation by the Ferret website. In April they revealed that new cracks had been discovered in the reactor, but at the time neither EDF nor the ONR would say how many. In May, EDF said that 39 cracks had been found and they were “happening at a slightly higher rate than modelled”. But yesterday, the website reported that more than 350 cracks had been discovered.
The National 22nd Nov 2018 read more »
Herald 21st Nov 2018 read more »
The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) Scotland Forum met recently in East Ayrshire Council headquarters in Kilmarnock and heard about real concerns around the potential reopening of the Hunterston B reactor from independent consultant on radioactive in the environment, Dr Ian Fairlie. The reactor is currently closed for a prolonged safety outage, and its reopening has already been put back a number of times, with a suggested new opening date of the 18th December. A key factor in its reopening remains around whether EDF can provide a thorough enough safety case to the nuclear regulator that an increasing number of keyway root cracks in the graphite bricks surrounding the reactor will not affect its integrity. NFLA Scotland Convenor, Councillor Feargal Dalton said: “The analysis provided by Dr Ian Fairlie to NFLA Scotland over increasing keyway route cracking of the Hunterston B reactors is of real concern. To hear that the amount of located cracks has increased from 77 to 350 is particularly worrying to us. I have asked the NFLA Secretary to contact the Chief UK Nuclear Inspector to discuss Dr Fairlie’s findings and in reference to permitting EDF to restart Hunterston B Reactors 3 and 4. I think it is also important the Scottish and UK Governments and members of the Scottish Parliament are made aware of these concerns.
NFLA 21st Nov 2018 read more »