The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) Scotland Forum met recently in East Ayrshire Council headquarters in Kilmarnock and heard about real concerns around the potential reopening of the Hunterston B reactor from independent consultant on radioactive in the environment, Dr Ian Fairlie. (1)
The reactor is currently closed for a prolonged safety outage, and its reopening has already been put back a number of times, with a suggested new opening date of the 18th December. A key factor in its reopening remains around whether EDF can provide a thorough enough safety case to the nuclear regulator that an increasing number of keyway root cracks in the graphite bricks surrounding the reactor will not affect its integrity.
At the NFLA Scotland seminar, Dr Ian Fairlie presented to the Forum concerns that he had discussed in detail with the respected independent nuclear engineer, John Large, who sadly died on the 2nd November and for whom the seminar was held in memory of. As early as 2006 John Large had been raising concerns about the issue of keyway cracks, and Dr Fairlie’s presentation reinforced the urgency of such concerns, given a considerably larger number of cracks have been found in Reactor 3 during this safety outage period by EDF. NFLA have also highlighted similar concerns in an October 2017 briefing. (2)
Subsequent to the meeting, Dr Fairlie has produced for the NFLA a short technical report to his presentation, which provides further and important information already identified by the NFLA last year.
The technical note from 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. It is understood that this number was considerably larger than EDF’s computer models had predicted.
In Dr Fairlie’s view, this is a vital matter as the EDF’s existing safety case is largely based on its computer modelling. In other words, at present, EDF does not appear to have a good understanding of the ageing mechanisms inside the reactors’ graphite cores.
In both John Large and Dr Fairlie’s view, such safety considerations are serious enough to call for the reactor not to be restarted.
Given the seriousness and urgency of Dr Fairlie’s report, NFLA are writing to the Chief UK Nuclear Inspector seeking a meeting over the findings of the report and the comments made about them by both independent consultants. NFLA share the real concerns on this matter that Dr Fairlie raises. NFLA are also planning to share the report with the UK and Scottish Governments and members of the Scottish Parliament.
Members of the Hunterston Site Stakeholder Group attended the NFLA Scotland public seminar and are likely to be raising similar concerns at its next meeting on the 6th December.
NFLA Scotland Convenor, Councillor Feargal Dalton said:
“The analysis provided by Dr Ian Fairlie to NFLA Scotland over increasing keyway route cracking of the Hunterston B reactors is of real concern. To hear that the amount of located cracks has increased from 77 to 350 is particularly worrying to us. I have asked the NFLA Secretary to contact the Chief UK Nuclear Inspector to discuss Dr Fairlie’s findings and in reference to permitting EDF to restart Hunterston B Reactors 3 and 4. I think it is also important the Scottish and UK Governments and members of the Scottish Parliament are made aware of these concerns.
“While this report is principally around the Hunterston B reactor, it also has clear implications for EDF’s existing reactors at Hinkley Point B, Hartlepool and Heysham. It is absolutely critical that nuclear safety considerations are dealt with real care, and it is a concern that EDF’s computer modelling appears to not be giving them enough information on the wider safety and integrity of the reactors graphite core. NFLA agree with Dr Fairlie that this matter is very serious and it will contact the Office for Nuclear Regulation to express its concerns and seek a meeting with them.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 0161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) NFLA Policy Briefing 182, ‘Short technical Note on Safety Problems at Reactors 3 & 4 at Hunterston B Nuclear Power Station following NFLA Scotland Forum meeting’ by Dr Ian Fairlie, November 2018 is attached with this note and is on the NFLA website homepage http://www.nuclearpolicy.info.
(2) NFLA Policy Briefing 164, ‘Nuclear Plant Life Extensions concerns’, October 2017,
See also ‘Closure urged after 350 cracks found in nuclear reactor’, Rob Edwards on November 20, 2018