Stop Hinkley Press Release

Top engineer says shut Hinkley 'B' immediately

Wednesday 5th July 2006

Stop Hinkley campaigners are supporting calls from a top engineer for Hinkley Point 'B' power station to be closed immediately.

Top nuclear engineer, John Large, has analysed papers obtained by Stop Hinkley campaigners under the Freedom of Information Act and discovered that extensive cracking has occurred in the graphite bricks which comprise the reactor core, making the reactor potentially unstable.

The papers reveal that British Energy, who operate the reactor, are unclear as to the exact origin or quantity of the cracks as they are inaccessible even to remote TV examination, developing unseen beneath the surface of the nuclear fuel channels. John Large goes on to say that the weakness could prevent control rods being inserted to douse the reactor in an emergency and create overheating. The fault could lead to a release of radiation from the plant.

Hinkley Point 'B' passed its thirtieth birthday this year, considered the design life of the AGR or Advance Gas Cooled Reactors. The graphite is known to have deteriorated more than other AGRs in the country with an astonishing predicted weight loss of 28 per cent in the worst bricks by 2008 (See Note 1).

The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate who regulate the safety of nuclear power stations were shown in their technical papers to be impatient with British Energy's lack of understanding of the fault and its tardiness in producing research to support continuing to operate the plant which they describe as 'defective'.

Jim Duffy, spokesman for Stop Hinkley, said: "We've suspected these problems for some time but British Energy has not been fully open about the cracking they discovered a full three years ago. The regulators seem exasperated with them for not proving what's wrong or showing how tolerant the reactor could be in an emergency, given its entirely new condition, not reckoned on in its design. They have now clearly passed the point at which it should operate. Safety now seems to be a secondary consideration, which is appaling. We could suffer a big blast of radiation downwind of these flakey reactors."

He added: "As Blair considers building a new fleet of reactors, starting at Hinkley, he should look at the unworthy outfits who operate the current nuclear power stations. It should make him change his mind."

Jim Duffy, Stop Hinkley Coordinator

01984 632109 or 07968 974805

Notes (1) Stop Hinkley phone conversation with Nuclear Installations Inspectorate 29th March 2006.

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