EDF Energy have received permission to restart a nuclear power plant where dangerous cracks were found in the reactor core. Cracks were found last year in the core of the reactor at the Hunterston B nuclear power plant in Scotland.
Now the Office for Nuclear Regulation have declared themselves satisfied that the reactor is safe to bring back into service.
Damaged Reactor Operating Within ‘Large Safety Margins’
Despite public concerns over the safety of the reactor, EDF Energy are confident they can operate it safely. They say they have clearly demonstrated that the reactors operate within ‘large safety margins’ even in extreme conditions.
However, the restarting of operations will only be allowed for about four months. What happens beyond that remains uncertain and EDF Energy will be expected to provide further reassurances of continued safe operation. The plant was originally closed in March earlier this year after hundreds of hairline fractures were discovered in graphite bricks. The bricks reside at the centre of the reactor core and any damage to them is obviously a serious issue.
Industry regulator the Office for Nuclear Regulation studied EDF Energy’s ‘long and detailed assessment of the safety case’. They deemed it satisfactory and believe the reactor is safe to operate and can also be safely shut down. This includes all foreseeable circumstances even including a significant seismic event like an earthquake.
Nuclear Power Safety Remains ‘Utmost Priority’
The Deputy Chief Inspector of the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), Donald Urquhart, said, “My team of expert inspectors along with an independent panel of graphite experts have worked for a number of years on the issue of cracking and shrinkage within graphite cores.
“The licensee, EDF Energy, has completed an extensive programme of work to analyse the condition of the graphite cores at Hunterston B and other reactors in the UK to increase their knowledge and provide sufficient evidence to ensure safe operation. I have met with many of our interested stakeholders during the course of our assessment and I recognise that this is an emotive issue, but let me reassure you, it is ONR’s statutory role to examine the evidence objectively and make our decisions based on that.
“Nuclear safety remains our utmost priority and we would only allow a reactor to restart with clear evidence that it remains safe for workers and the public.”
The Hunterston B power station is in North Ayrshire, Scotland, and first began producing electricity in 1976. It is located approximately six miles south of Largs and about 2.5 miles northwest of West Kilbride.
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