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Hunterston nuclear reactor allowed to restart, despite increasing cracks in the graphite core.

No to Nuclear Power, November 2020, On 27th August, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) announced it was giving EDF permission to restart Reactor 3 at Hunterston B for a limited period – generating up to a total of 16.425 Terawatt days, approximately six months’ operation. (1) Then on 24 September ONR gave EDF permission for Reactor 4 to return to service for a similar limited period. By the end of September both reactors were operating. (2)
 Following the Reactor 3 announcement, EDF said it is hoping to run both reactors at the site for two last six-month periods each and then begin decommissioning them “no later than 7 January 2022”. The reactors were previously scheduled to be shut down in March 2023.
  ONR has yet to give permission for either reactor to operate for a second six months, and this will require new safety cases.
The NFLA and campaigners have condemned the moves to restart Hunterston, warning that public health is being put at risk. They are calling for the plant to be permanently closed down now. “The safest thing to do is to close Hunterston B and start accelerated decommissioning of its reactors,” said the group’s Scottish convener, Glasgow SNP councillor Feargal Dalton. “We totally disagree with EDF that decommissioning should start in 2022. It should happen now for the sake of public safety.” He added: “The fact it has taken two years and much resource from EDF to provide sufficient information to the ONR to allow a restart to take place is indicative of the level of risk over the structural integrity of these reactors.” (3)
  Reactor three has an estimated 377 cracks in its graphite core and has been shut down since 9 March 2018. It will only be allowed to operate for six months before it will have to close down again so that its core can be checked for new cracks. Then EDF will need new permission to operate it for a further, final six months. Reactor four at Hunterston has an estimated 209 cracks in its core, and was shut down on 2 October 2018. It was allowed to restart for four months in 2019.
According to the Daily Business website, EDF employs approximately 580 workers (and around 200 contractors). About 125 will lose their jobs in January 2022 with others retained until 2025 for the    de-fuelling process. (4) After that, there will be the massive task on dismantling the two reactors safely.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland said “Whether it was clever press strategy or fluke, EDF managed to use the closure announcement to bury the news that their damaged reactor is starting up again. They must be laughing all the way to the bank.” (5)
  West Kilbride Tory councillor Todd Ferguson called for Hunterston to be shut immediately. He said Hunterston should not be a ‘guinea pig’ for the UK nuclear industry testing how long power stations can last. “There comes a time when the reactors should remain offline for good. The North Ayrshire Conservative Group believe the time to look at this is now.” (6)
The NFLA Scotland Forum have joined with Friends of the Earth Scotland, WWF Scotland, CND Scotland and the Nuclear Consulting Group to raise serious concerns over the decision of the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to allow these reactors to restart. It is important to note that the majority of the Scottish population live downwind of Hunterston B and the consequences of an accident will be catastrophic. In terms of the energy generation issues by closing Hunterston B, it needs to be noted that EDF Energy has recently been asked by the National Grid to reduce output at Sizewell B in Suffolk due to a lack of energy demand, providing it with £50 million in order to do this. With the reducing cost and increasing levels of renewable energy coming on stream there is absolutely no need to restart Hunterston B. Restarting for 6 or 12 months is creating an unnecessary risk to the people of Scotland. If accelerated decommissioning of the site was to take place, many jobs can be diverted into such activity for some time to come. In addition, whilst there is fuel in the reactor, it is a criticality risk and has to be almost fully staffed until it is defueled in 2025. (7 )
The latest technical documents (8) put online by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) show:
1. EDF has predicted that the number of cracks in reactor three’s graphite core will increase from the current 570 to 781 after six months operation, and to 943 after 12 months operation. 943 cracks would bring the reactor close to EDF’s new “damage tolerance level” of 1,331 cracks, and exceeds its “intermediate damage tolerance assessment” of 905 cracks.
2. EDR has scrapped its “operational allowance” for cracks, which in 2018 was 350. It now says that the safety limit is its “Currently Established Damage Tolerance Level” of 1,331. So, the acceptable number of cracks has nearly quadrupled in two years.
3. EDF has done new analysis of “in-event cracking” to assess the damage that a one-in tenthousand-year earthquake could do if it occurred in the next six months. This predicts that “overloads” would cause an additional 500 cracks.

  The ONR report also contains some interesting remarks on EDF assessments. It says for example that the company’s estimates of the likelihood of fragments of debris broken off graphite blocks “migrating to safety significant locations” are “inherently subjective”. It also suggests that EDF’s safety case methodology is “approaching its limit of viability”.   The ONR report also contains some interesting remarks on EDF assessments. It says for example that the company’s estimates of the likelihood of fragments of debris broken off graphite blocks “migrating to safety significant locations” are “inherently subjective”. It also suggests that EDF’s safety case methodology is “approaching its limit of viability”.

 Despite all this of course, ONR bought EDF’s argument that it should be allowed to operate for another six months. But maybe getting ONR’s permission for a second six months’ operation – as EDF want – is not certain.
Jobs Nicola Sturgeon has promised to look into job fears surrounding Hunterston’s closure. Calls have been made for the Scottish Government and North Ayrshire Council to create a plan for the workforce. Nicola Sturgeon said the government is committed to creating new employment locally. Conservative MSP Jamie Greene says the impact of the decommissioning will be huge and insists local people will need extra support. Kenneth Gibson, the SNP MSP for the area, says work needs to be done quickly to support jobs and that officials must look towards a green future. He said: “The decision should encourage the Scottish and UK Governments to work in partnership with the council to deliver the economic transition of the area with a greater sense of urgency. Whilst defuelling will mean no immediate job losses, investment locally in green, clean energy is now the priority.” (9)
• EDF Energy has announced that it intends to submit new safety cases to ONR to re-open Reactors 3 and 4 at Hinkley Point B – Hunterston’s sister reactors. It currently expects reactor 4 to return to service on 26 February 2021 and reactor 3 on 12 March 2021. The Stop Hinkley Campaign is calling for both reactors to remain closed. Stop Hinkley spokesperson Roy Pumfrey said: “Nuclear engineer, the late John Large said more than a decade ago that it was gambling with public safety to allow reactors with cracks in their core to keep operating. Every minute these reactors operate that gamble become riskier. We call upon the UK Government to intervene and request the ONR to re-consider their unwise decisions at Hunterston B and to refuse to accept EDF’s safety cases for Hinkley Point B. It is EDF in Paris, France which will benefit from the restart of these reactors, but it is those of us who live in Somerset and middle England who are being exposed to these involuntary risks” (10)

November 12, 2020 - Posted by | safety, UK

1 Comment »

  1. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Hunterston Restarted Despite Cracks in Graphite – They KNOW this is Dangerous! Hunterston (and all UK and many overseas reactors) is fuelled by Springfields Nuclear Fuels at the end of Preston New Road – Now Rebranded the “Clean Energy Technology Park” Criminal NuSpeak

    Comment by mariannewildart | November 13, 2020 | Reply

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