Stop Hinkley Press Release

1st July 2009

Nuclear Regulator concerns over new reactor Nuclear Safety Systems

Campaigners are worried that regulators' concerns about a French reactor due to be built at Hinkley Point may be overridden when it comes to licensing the design.

In today's Times [1] the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) said it has serious reservations about the Control and Instrumentation system which monitors and controls the station's performance and oversees nuclear safety. The NII said the system in the French company Areva's European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) design, proposed for Hinkley Point and possibly Oldbury, is overly complex and lacking sufficient manual overrides for operator intervention to bring the nuclear reactor to a safe shut down state.

The Finnish regulator made much the same complaint in December 2008 regarding lack of progress in this area on the Olkiluoto EPR nuclear plant, now three and a half years into construction but three years behind schedule and billions of Euros over budget. The head of STUK strongly noted to Areva concerns over the central and all-important reactor control system, so much so that STUK considered there to be ".... no possibility to approve these important systems for installation." [2]

The NII has said that it would grant a licence for the EPR reactor only if it was satisfied that the reactor design could be built and operated safely and securely. But Stop Hinkley campaigners are very concerned about an NII statement last Thursday [3] that "exclusions" could be made where the designers have not furnished sufficient information on aspects of the reactor.

Mr Kevin Allars, Project Manager of the NII's Generic Design Assessment team, said in his opening speech at a London conference for invited NGOs and local campaign groups, "We are catching up after a period of shortage of inspectors and hope to make a licensing decision in June 2011 but there may be some 'exclusions' where we do not have enough information to conclude our thoughts in certain areas. These will be things that are going to be done in the commissioning stage. We aim for zero exclusions but don't think it will happen...There are issues with the Control and Instrumentation architecture where some changes are necessary."

Jim Duffy, spokesman for Stop Hinkley said: "This intelligence system is crucial for the safety of the new reactor design and the NII are right to challenge Areva over it. This should be a show-stopper if it's not resolved and we would be appalled if a system of such importance is under consideration for exclusion from the licence due to political and commercial pressure to get the reactors up and running. The NII's authority would be severely compromised."

John Large [4], of the Consulting Engineers Large & Associates, who has reported on the troubles with the Olkiluoto EPR [5], noted that "A very real risk of the NII permitting the EPR licensing process to proceed on a piecemeal basis is that it, itself, could be compromised by having to wave through unsatisfactory aspects of the final design - the nuclear safety regulator playing catch-up happened with STUK at Olkiluoto which it now seems to very much regret."

Renewables report: intermittency not a problem

The news emerges as a report [6] commissioned by the National Grid shows that more that 40 percent of the UK 's electricity can be delivered by renewables, mostly wind-power, with no problems with intermittency of supply.

Jim Duffy said: "The Government should change its mind over nuclear power which only produced 16 percent of the UK 's electricity last year. Renewables can produce nearly three times as much by 2030, doing so without the safety risk and no nuclear waste or pollution."

Jim Duffy, Stop Hinkley Coordinator, 07798 666756

Notes

[1] http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/natural_resources/article6613960.ece

[2] http://weblog.greenpeace.org/nuclear-reaction/2009/05/problems_with_olkiluoto_reacto.html

[3] HSE/NII Seminar for NGOs 25th June 2009, Royal Horticultural Society, London

[4] http://www.largeassociates.com

[5] http://www.largeassociates.com/R3123-a2%20final%20Issue.pdf

[6] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8127177.stm

 

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Page Updated 02-Jul-2009