Stop Hinkley Press release/photo opportunity

Hinkley B alternative birthday party

Monday 6th February marks the 30th birthday of the commissioning of Hinkley Point B nuclear power station. To commiserate the event Stop Hinkley and other campaigners will hold an alternative birthday party in West Quantoxhead, at the home of the group's coordinator.

An eight foot mock reactor has been built in Jim's garden featuring dials on danger and a Frankenstein switch. Wording above the switch says: "HINKLEY 'B' 30 YEARS - OUR BIRTHDAY WISH...SHUT DOWN NOW!" Campaigners will wear radiation suits or "Yes to Wind" T-shirts, carrying placards in front of a picture of a wind-turbine.

A black flag will be ceremoniously lowered from a flagpole in front of the 'reactor' and a green flag raised in its place. The reactor will be symbolically switched off while campaigners sing a mock Happy Birthday song.

History

Hinkley 'B' has been the subject of much controversy over the years. As it was being built, it was later alleged that stainless piping had been 'bodge' welded, with X-rays forged to hide the fact. Health and Safety officials refused to take up an offer to be shown where the defective welds were.

The early years were fraught with problems during refuelling. This safety problem, generic to all Advance Gas-Cooled Reactors (AGRs), still requires the reactor to reduce pressure and vent carbon dioxide coolant gas at each refuelling operation.

In November 1987 an accidental release of twenty tonnes of the contaminated coolant gas occurred, suggested at the time (John Large, Consultant Engineer in the Guardian) as being the worst UK nuclear accident since the Windscale disaster in 1957.

In 1983, '87 and '89 three consecutive reports by Somerset Health Authority said that leukaemia in under 26's was statistically significantly higher than expected in electoral wards adjacent to the power station.

In 2000 Dr Chris Busby examined 150 electoral wards over a five year period for mortality in four cancers, using Office of National Statistics figures. This showed a doubling of the expected breast cancer figure in Burnham north and high figures in Burnham south.

In the same year Hinkley 'A' was shut down after Stop Hinkley campaigners also highlighted structural safety problems related to age and corrosion in the crucial reactor cooling system.

In 2002 Parents Concerned About Hinkley conducted a doorstep health survey of a third of the homes in Burnham north and analysed figures showed breast cancer incidence (as opposed to mortality) was three times higher than normal, with a doubling of leukaemia.

In 2003 Somerset Coast PCT commissioned the SW Cancer Intelligence Service to study the phenomenon. SWCIS showed, over ten years, breast cancer was twenty four per cent higher than expected in four wards from Brean to Highbridge and leukaemia double that expected in Burnham north. But they felt the rates could not be proved to be connected to Hinkley discharges up wind of the towns

In August 2004 a radiation 'hot-spot' was discovered on Kilve beach, two miles from Hinkley, by a member of the public. He bought a geiger-counter after his two dogs unexpectedly died of stomach cancer after routine use of the beach. Readings over the whole beach were 40 times background levels and 100 times in an area 20 metres by 20 metres. The Environment Agency was alerted but failed to test the beach for five weeks by which time the radiation had dispersed. A subsequent report included no recommendations or conclusions.

In December 2004 managers discovered 'three or four' cracks in the graphite reactor core. British Energy declared this could be a life-limiting factor to AGRs when found in a similar but newer reactor at Hartlepool a few months earlier. Cracks in the graphite moderator bricks could conceivably prevent control rods being deployed in an emergency and create a local 'fuel-fire' which could escalate.

Spent fuel containing dangerous plutonium from the twin reactor has been sent, via Bridgwater streets and a rail-head next to Eastover Primary school, for reprocessing at Sellafield in Cumbria since operations began. Contaminated ballast was removed twice from the railhead after discoveries of excess radiation particles. Fuel flasks also routinely emit Gamma radiation to those nearby. Plutonium must be kept safe for a million years, according to a court ruling at Yucca Mountain, the planned "Deep Repository" in USA. The Chair of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management said in Bristol on 14th January "There is no solution to nuclear waste, only different methods of managing it."

Jim Duffy, Coordinator of Stop Hinkley, said: "We very much regret the thirty years this plant has been running, with its ongoing radioactive discharges and production of highly dangerous plutonium for which there is no solution. As well as risking the effects of an awful accident like Chernobyl if this cracked reactor fails, local people seem to have been subject to serious illnesses just from its routine operations. Now is surely the time to shut down this plant, move on to renewable energy and wave goodbye to the nuclear era. We don't want another thirty years or more with a Hinkley'C' ."

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