Calls to close Hinkley Point

Bridgwater Mercury website, 24 October 2006

SOMERSET'S troubled Hinkley Point power station must never open again, anti-nuclear protestors warned this week.

Both the station's advanced gas-cooled reactors are currently shut down due to cracks in a reactor's graphite core and deterioration of boiler pipes.

Engineers are busy working on the problems, but documents released this week under a Freedom of Information Act request suggested British Energy cannot make a safety case for the graphite core to cover the next ten years of the plant's life, as it will not last that long.

The report, which was privately published in July by the Nuclear Installation Inspectorate, has provoked calls from staunch Hinkley opponents to shut down the plant, which provides 3% of the country's electricity, for good.

Jim Duffy, spokesman for Stop Hinkley, said: "Here we have a graphic description of the damage to the reactor core, which the regulators say fails to meet fundamental nuclear safety requirements.

"This was written before the surprise discovery of severe boiler tube cracks, which greatly compounds the safety risk. Reading it all made a cold shiver run down my spine. Hinkley must be finished now."

The power station has had a torrid year at the hands of campaigners after being forced to bring forward its three-year statutory inspection after cracks were found in the identical Hunterston plant in Scotland.

A statement from British Energy said: "All British Energy nuclear power stations operate under safety cases agreed and signed off by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate. Without this safety case approval, our stations would not operate.

"The documents reflect only a fragment of the ongoing dialogue that British Energy has with its regulator.

"The graphite cores are made up of a number of graphite bricks arranged in layers. It is accepted that cracks will occur in some of the bricks as part of the normal ageing process within the graphite reactor core."

Hinkley B's two advanced gas-cooled reactors are scheduled to close in 2011.

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