Hinkley B given clean bill of health
Bridgwater Mercury, 8th May 2007
HINKLEY Point B power station has been given a clean bill of health and licensed for the next ten years, despite the continuing safety concerns of anti-nuclear campaigners.
The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate reported on May 1 that the 30 year-old reactor had passed a ten-year period safety review, effectively meaning it can run until 2017.
This is subject to the completion of £4.5million of repairs, shared with its sister station at Hunterston in Ayrshire.
Station owner British Energy says when the work has been completed, no further safety reviews will be required before January 2017.
This will include continuing work on graphite and boiler issues - which were at the centre of concerns after cracks were discovered in the reactor core in September, leading to the station's closure.
In a statement, British Energy said: "The company continues its work on assessing the accounting lives of Hunterston B and Hinkley Point B and expects to make a decision by March 2008 on economic and technical grounds as to whether the stations can be extended beyond their existing accounting lives of 2011."
Despite granting the licence, the NII still criticised Hinkley over an apparent shortage of some of the information.
In a letter following the review, the NII warned progress on work to be carried out will be monitored, and "any significant slippage on any aspect of the work will be reviewed against options for future enforcement action".
It continued: "NII views the current submission as having a number of significant shortfalls both in the quality and scope of information that is required by the UK regulatory system.
"Nevertheless, after careful consideration NII has concluded that the issues arising from its PSR assessment are not immediate concerns for nuclear safety and that it is appropriate that normal station operation should continue whilst a remedial programme of work is progressed."
However, the news of Hinkley's extended lifespan has been criticised by anti-nuclear campaigners in the area.
Jim Duffy, spokesman for lobby group Stop Hinkley, said: "I'm astonished at this inexplicable move.
"The regulators have contradicted their own safety predictions which said that most reactor core bricks would have cracked during this review period, including some that will be cleaved in half.
"It's outrageous to grant a license to a reactor in this dangerous condition. No amount of money thrown at Hinkley can repair the crumbling reactor core, which is too radioactive and inaccessible to work on."