Fresh calls for nuclear power station near to Burnham-On-Sea to close

Anti-nuclear campaigners have this week backed calls by a top nuclear consultant for the immediate closure of Hinkley Point power station, near Burnham-On-Sea.

The calls on Friday (October 26th) came after a regulator's report stated that Hinkley's reactor core support system is 'potentially unsafe'.

Key structural engineering components supporting Hinkley's cracked reactor core have been discovered to be more prone to failure than previously assumed, say the campaigners, and this "could affect the safety of the reactor, both in normal operation and in an emergency."

The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate last week issued a notice stating "the effects of irradiation embrittlement on core restraint components are more severe than previously assumed... they may be degraded to the extent there may be a significant number of latent failures, which may affect the function of the support system in normal operation and faults... potentially undermining the safety case for the graphite core."

The latest development comes on top of boiler tube problems discovered at Hinkley last September, which shut the twin reactors until late May.

The news has prompted calls for Hinkley's closure from nuclear expert John Large of Large Associates, who said: "The Hinkley Point and Hunterston reactors were permitted to continue operating, albeit at a derated output, with an acknowledged weakened core and doubtful boiler tube integrity only because the restraint tank garter system was then believed to be intact and capable of functioning under abnormal core pressure surges."

"Now we are informed that this last line of core integrity defence has weakened over the years and there is uncertainty over how effectively it would function under adverse conditions. This is a most unsatisfactory approach to defence in depth and all four Hinkley and Hunterston reactors should be immediately closed until the longer term nuclear safety case has been demonstrated to be adequate."

Jim Duffy, spokesman for Stop Hinkley, said: "Common sense says one problem at the heart of an ancient reactor is bad enough, two is very worrying, three is begging for trouble. Hinkley are playing down this discovery perhaps to keep their shares from collapsing any further after this week's tumble when half of their reactors were off-line. But safety should come first. Let's see this reactor shut for good, right now."

British Energy has denied that the issues raised are a cause for concern.

Published: October 26, 2007


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Page Updated 27-Oct-2007