Stop Hinkley Press Release

Hinkley shut till spring, then low output for a year

21st December 2006

Yet more cracked boiler tube pipes at Hinkley Point nuclear plant have contributed to an extended closure till the end of March. 'Tail pipes' at the top of the difficult to access boilers were found to need repair in reactor 4. Although this has now been done, reactor 3 requires a similar inspection and repair work. A detailed safety case then needs to be put together and approved by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate.

Hinkley's two reactors were shut down in October and November with the surprise discovery that extensive cracks had occurred in their boiler tubes. Teams of workers have been examining and re-welding or plugging the damaged pipes, working for short periods before being replaced due to radioactive exposure. The boilers are housed alongside the reactor core and within the reactor housing.

British Energy had announced restart dates at the end of December and January for the two reactors, in a six-monthly financial report. But the dates had not been agreed by the nuclear safety regulator as discovered by Stop Hinkley through a Freedom of Information request (see previous press release). In fact no correspondence had been exchanged on the subject. The company had been sticking to its announced dates till as late as 15th August (see WMN report below) but Dow Jones/British Energy reports (also below) show the assumptions were optimistic.

Low output till March 2008

Even with the new delay and extra work, Hinkley will not operate at full output till March 2008. It can only operate at 70 percent of its normal output, as many of the boiler tubes will have been blocked off, reducing its efficiency. The plan is to use regular outages to continue re-welding the cracked pipes until March 2008. Even this plan is speculative:

It may not be feasible to complete all the repairs. The graphite reactor cores at Hinkley are known to have worrying cracks. A recent regulator's report, also exposed through Freedom of Information requests, has said that during the coming ten-year period the majority of the graphite bricks will have cracked and it is not currently possible to make a safety case for that period (see HSE website). Elsewhere they stated there was an increased risk of an accident with continued operation of the reactor. British Energy will have to weigh up how worthwhile the expensive repairs to their boilers are if the plant will shut down for other reasons.

The closure of sister plant, Hunterston in Ayrshire with identical problems, and the newer Hartlepool reactor for different reasons, will impact badly on British Energy's finances. But they hold a key to future prosperity with the ownership of land to the west of the Hinkley site, which could be leased to build a Hinkley C station.

In November wind-farm operators Your Energy withdrew three turbines from their planned wind-farm alongside the power station due to curious safety objections by British Energy. This will allow room for a new nuclear reactor subject to the go-ahead from the Government, which may be announced in a White Paper in April. Planning approval looks set to be centralised with local objections potentially swiftly overruled under new laws drawn up by the Government.

Jim Duffy, spokesman for Stop Hinkley said: "Our prediction of a slow death for Hinkley B looks more and more likely. British Energy are trying to patch it up but this unreliable old plant is so damaged they could never do enough to get it back to its original state. They should call it quits now rather than gambling against the regulator's worry of an accident."

 

Jim Duffy, Stop Hinkley Coordinator, 07968 974805


British Energy Group PLC, 20 December 2006

Hunterston B and Hinkley Point B

The Company has largely completed inspection and repair of boiler tube bifurcations at all 4 units at Hunterston B and Hinkley Point B. The results of the boiler tube bifurcation inspections at the R4 units were broadly in line with previous expectations.

To provide baseline data for the boiler safety case, boiler management strategy and life extension decisions, other boiler tube components (tail pipes) were inspected. These revealed a small number of defects requiring repair. Repair of these components has been completed at Hinkley Point B R4 and has yet to be completed at Hunterston B R4. As a prudent measure, there will be further inspections at both R3 units so that the Company can be satisfied as to the integrity of the boilers for the return to service of all 4 units at 70% of full capacity.

As a result of the work referred to above and resulting human resource constraints, the Company is now working towards a return to service of all four units by the end of March 2007, subject to approval of the associated safety cases and assuming no further unexpected problems are identified by the inspections.

The impact on nuclear output in the financial year 2006/07 of a return to service at end of March 2007 remains as set out in the Company's interim results announcement on 17 November 2006. In concert with these further inspections, the Company is seeking to bring forward the work intended for the planned outage of both units at Hunterston B in May 2007. This will have a positive impact in the financial year 2007/08.

Hartlepool

The Company announced on 16 October that Hartlepool power station had shutdown to undertake repairs to cast iron pipe work related to the cooling water system.

The replacement of the affected pipe work has now been completed and the Company is in the process of returning the units at Hartlepool to service. One unit returned to service on 18 December 2006. The other unit at Hartlepool is expected to return to service over the next week.

Notes : Tail pipes consist of a length of boiler tube at the top of the boiler. The issues affecting the tail pipes are specific to Hunterston B and Hinkley Point B.

 

DJ MARKET TALK: British Energy Update Disappoints

20/12/2006 08:21:23 GMT Standard Time

0819 GMT [Dow Jones] British Energy's (BGY.LN) update is in line with expectations but investors had priced in some very optimistic assumptions says an analyst.

Notes investors were hoping for an earlier return to service of the R3 units. Says news on the tail pipes cracks is mildly negative. Separately, a trader points out that the stock has performed strongly in the last couple of weeks. In his view "The update is not brilliant," but it's not "disastrous." Shares -3.4% at 554p. (KHO)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires, Copyright (c) 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc., KTS MarketTerminal http://www.ktsplc.com

 

HINKLEY POWER PROBLEMS

Western Morning News (Front page) , 16 December 2006

The Westcountry's only nuclear power station will not be running at full power until at least March 2008, it emerged last night. Two reactors at Hinkley Point B have been out of action for two months after crack


Click Here for the full story.

 

Stop Hinkley Logo