The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) is preparing to provide a special briefing to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament on the 9th January providing its real concerns on the safety of Reactors 3 and 4 at the Hunterston B nuclear reactor site in North Ayrshire. (1)
The briefing will be chaired by West of Scotland Green MSP Ross Greer and will give all MSPs, councillors, trade unions, environmental groups and local residents a detailed assessment of the safety issues around a growing and large number of keyway root cracks which have been found in the two reactors. These have been closed since May 2018.
EDF are currently developing a detailed safety case seeking to get approval from the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to reopen the reactors and have suggested they hope that can be achieved in March and April 2019. The final authorisation will only come from the nuclear regulator. NFLA will be shortly meeting with the Deputy Chief Nuclear Inspector to raise its concerns.
At the Special Briefing, independent nuclear policy consultant Dr Ian Fairlie will outline his analysis of the keyway root cracks issue within the graphite bricks that surround each reactor. This research was undertaken in close consultation with the now sadly late independent nuclear engineering consultant John Large.
In a November 2018 technical note provided to the NFLA, Dr Fairlie outlines that in early 2018, during a scheduled outage, EDF discovered a higher number of new keyway root cracks in Reactor 3 (R3) than it had expected from its model predictions. Consequently in May 2018, EDF announced that R3’s outage would be extended for further investigation, analysis and new modelling. It is presently understood that about 27% of the R3’s fuel channels have now been inspected and that over 350 keyway cracks had now been observed – an unexpectedly large increase over the previous number of 77 cracks in 2017. In Dr Fairlie’s view, this is a vital matter as the EDF’s existing safety case is largely based on its computer modelling. This means EDF does not appear to have a good understanding of the ageing mechanisms inside the reactors’ graphite cores. (2)
Dr Fairlie will provide further explanation to MSP’s and others at the special briefing at 1pm in Committee Room 4 of the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 9th January.
Also speaking at the meeting will be NFLA Scotland Policy Advisor Pete Roche who will consider the ways with which to protect jobs on the site through a combination of moving to a decommissioning schedule and waste management model for the site and promoting the ‘Just Transition’ model being developed by the Scottish Government for transferring skilled workers into low carbon energy sectors.
The Chair of the Special Briefing, Ross Greer MSP said:
“Long running safety and job concerns from the community around Hunterston have increased quite significantly in recent months, as news from the site only gets worse. Residents contact me regularly about this and I have raised it directly with the First Minister and others on their behalf. This valuable briefing from NFLA will give my MSP colleagues and a range of other key groups and individuals a chance to better understand exactly what the situation is at present. Just as importantly, we will discuss how to ensure a just transition, protecting and indeed growing the number of local jobs.”
NFLA Scotland Forum Vice-Convener, Councillor Audrey Doig said:
“I am looking forward to meeting Members of the Scottish Parliament to outline why the NFLA is concerned over the safety of the Hunterston B nuclear reactor site. The presentation from Dr Fairlie is a sober and carefully researched report that comes to the conclusion that the high level of keyway root cracks in the Hunterston B Reactors 3 and 4 are now so numerous as to likely compromise their long- term integrity. This makes it clear that it is difficult for the nuclear regulator to approve a safety case for the resumption of the reactors. NFLA is also clear that jobs on the site should be protected and will show how decommissioning and ‘Just Transition’ work can do so in a way similar to being achieved at the Dounreay site. I urge MSP’s to attend this briefing.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 0161 234 3244. Notes for editors:
(1) Flyer for the Scottish Parliament Special Briefing on Hunterston B can be found on the NFLA website
(2) NFLA Policy Briefing 181, 14th November 2018