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Hinkley Point C and Sea-Level Rise 

 NuClear News, Sept 18  The Stop Hinkley Campaign wrote to the Office for Nuclear Regulation at the end of July to express increasing concern about the number of reports from climate researchers who believe sea levels could rise by as much as 6 metres as a result of substantial melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets caused by climate change.

Some researchers say sea levels could rise by six metres or more even if the 2 degree target of the Paris accord is met. Sustained warming of one to two degrees in the past has been accompanied by substantial reductions of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and sea level rises of at least six metres – several metres higher than what current climate models predict could occur by 2100. (1)

In the light of these recent higher estimates of sea level rise the group wanted to know whether ONR has revisited and perhaps revised its view on the future safety of the Hinkley Point C site. Stop Hinkley was particularly interested to know whether ONR is confident that the site will be suitable for the interim storage of spent fuel until at least the year 2140.

ONR responded by saying that “the primary protection against coastal flooding for HPC is the height of the site platform (14m above sea level). The site characterisation has demonstrated that the platform is not vulnerable to a design basis coastal flood, including reasonably foreseeable climate change. The HPC site licensee (NNB GenCo) will monitor this hazard via Periodic Safety Reviews (including the interim spent fuel store) and if the assumptions in the safety case regarding climate change are shown to no longer be valid; they will be reconsidered. If necessaryy, further preplanned flood protection measures will be put in place through a managed approach.”

The 14m above sea-level makes it sound like quite a large margin. But the Hinkley Point C Stress Test report shows an extreme flooding level of 9.52m (with no waves). Taking into consideration “wave effects” of 2m this gives a margin of 2.48m. (2)

Latest study suggests that rapid melting in Antarctica could begin within the next century, before HPC is decommissioned and before spent fuel is removed. (3) The Antarctic ice sheet contains enough ice to raise sea level by approximately 57 metres (187 feet), about half the length of a soccer pitch. (4) While it is unlikely that enough ice would melt to raise sea-levels by 57 metres, Antarctica is so massive that just a small fraction of this ice melting would be enough to cause huge problems for people and infrastructure on the coast.

ONR says it “maintains a constant review of scientific thinking on climate change, and is guided by relevant good practice. This includes UK and international guidance, UK Climate Projections 09 (UKCP09) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). To support efficient and effective regulation, ONR has established an independent expert panel on meteorological hazards to provide advice. ONR’s expert panel is a collection of competent consultants with expertise in this technical area. This panel has provided advice on the HPC external flooding safety case and will continue to provide advice on the potential impacts of climate change.”

“ONR is content that a suitable managed adaptive approach can be adopted, in the event that sea level rise is more than predicted.”

Perhaps the next question to ONR is how long will it take to move 60 years’ worth of spent fuel if the thinking on flood risk and the likelihood of a tsunami were suddenly to become out-dated?


September 10, 2018 - Posted by | marketing, UK

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