On 10 January we wrote a short blog post on the dire state of the Hunterston B nuclear reactors and reported on a meeting where environmental radiologist Ian Fairlie spoke about the risk this poses to the population of central Scotland and beyond.
Ian Fairlie was back in Edinburgh on February 5th to provide an update on developments. Along with a colleague he had presented a technical report to the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) – the regulatory body that has to give EDF permission to resume operations at Hunterston. The ONR agreed with the substance of his report. Apparently the inspection of the reactor core suggests that a small number of the graphite blocks have double cracks but more than expected have multiple cracks. It also transpires that Hunterston in fact has only one safety back up system rather than two – as became the norm in the later Advanced Gas Cooled Reactors (AGRs). Overall the ONR’s view of the current state of the reactors is even bleaker than Ian Fairlie had suggested in January. And in the face of this EDF are lobbying for reducing the accepted risk factor for the reactors by a factor of a 1000.
There is almost no chance that the reactors will be restarted in March and April as EDF have stated. This gives more time to continue to raise awareness of the safety threat they pose and to get the Scottish Government onside in a campaign to ensure the reactors are never restarted. There is no immediate threat to jobs because it takes some years for the reactors to get to a state where decommissioning can begin. This is a test case for Just Transition, however, and we need to campaign that over time the workforce is supported to move into sustainable jobs.
As we mentioned in January EDF are hugely in debt. They are desperate to restart production – not least because they have problems with their other AGRs. So they will fight the closure of Hunterston. Adding to their problems though is that, unreported and unmarked in the mainstream media, the Tories at Westminster are in the midst of a U-turn on nuclear. Although for the moment they cling on to idea that Hinkley C can still be built.
To find out more about why Hunterston is so dangerous read our latest Briefing 9.