The Scotland Forum of the Nuclear Free Local Authorities has publicly announced its ‘concern’ following the discovery of fresh cracks in ‘atom insulation cladding’ at the Hunterston nuclear power station in Ayrshire.
As the operator, EDF – the French nuclear giant – holds talks with the British Office for Nuclear Regulation, the NFLA last night called for ‘exacting’ safety checks to ensure that public safety is not put at risk by the operation of the 42 year old atomic reactor.
The integrity of the graphite ‘cladding’ that make up the reactor core is vital to nuclear safety. They ensure that the reactor can be both cooled and safely shut down in an emergency.
After over 40 years of operation, the intense radiation used in the process is inevitably having an effect on the graphite blocks, with cracks seen on the blocks of a number of existing nuclear reactor sites, particularly Hunterston B, but also Hinkley Point B and reactors at Hartlepool and Heysham.
Any failure of the blocks could potentially lead to nuclear fuel overheating, the reactor melting down and a significant radioactive leak as part of a major nuclear accident.
Both the ONR and EDF have confirmed that new cracks have been found, but would not go into any further detail.
Councillor Feargal Dalton, NFLA Scotland Forum Convener, said: “NFLA has been concerned for some time about the issue of increased cracks being found in the graphite bricks that surround the nuclear reactors of our ageing nuclear power stations.
“That more cracks have been found in the Hunterston reactor is confirmation that these sites are coming close to the conclusion of their plant life. The ONR needs to work with EDF to ensure that they are absolutely satisfied with the integrity of the reactor before it permits any resumption of its electricity generation.
“These issues are symptomatic of the real truth in Scottish and UK energy policy, that nuclear power, like coal generation before it, is coming to an end. Scotland’s embracing of renewable energy has been very welcome in the past decade and it should be rapidly scaled up to assist all parts of Scotland in being involved in this new energy revolution.
“Renewable energy can benefit all of Scotland and is both the way forward for low carbon transition and in tackling the huge challenges of climate change.”
A Dublin university graduate and a former weapons engineer in the royal navy’s submarine service who retired with the rank of lieutenant commander, Dalton is now an SNP councillor in Glasgow.
24 Apr 2018