Seaweed shuts down Scottish nuclear reactor via The Guardian

Seawater cooling system of Torness in East Lothian has become clogged with seaweed for the second time this year

A nuclear reactor near Edinburgh shut down on Thursday because its seawater cooling system became clogged with seaweed.

This is the second time this year that reactors at Torness in East Lothian have been forced to close because of excessive seaweed. In 2011 it was closed by a swarm of jellyfish.

Reactors need large amounts of water in order to keep them cool, and to prevent them from overheating. Seawater for cooling at Torness is filtered, but when the filters get clogged, reactors have to be shut down as a safety precaution.

The station’s operator, EDF Energy, has said that one of the two 640-megawatt reactors at Torness was shut down in the early hours of this morning. It is expected to remain closed for the next seven days.

“We took reactor 2 offline at 02:20 this morning due to increased seaweed ingress as a result of the weather conditions in the area,” said the nuclear station’s director, Paul Winkle.

“We are aware that at certain times of year with particular weather conditions in this part of the Forth estuary, seaweed volumes can increase and enter the station’s cooling water intake system.”

Torness staff were trained to respond to this situation by taking reactors offline if necessary, he said. “In addition, the many-layered safety systems monitor conditions like this and the plant’s inbuilt mechanisms will take the unit offline automatically.”

EDF Energy was criticised by the government’s nuclear safety inspectors over a seaweed blockage that closed down a Torness reactor in 2010. Inspectors identified “a number of areas where further enhancement may be possible” in the safety arrangements for dealing with seaweed.

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