Calls for review of sector as report reveals the unreliability of nuclear power. Exclusive by Rob Edwards, Environment Editor
The reactors of nuclear power stations across Britain have been shut down 20 times a year because of faults – prompting fears over safety and the UK’s energy supply.
An analysis for local authorities reveals that 15 reactors have had 62 unplanned shutdowns in the last three years. They have been hit by electrical, boiler and valve defects, fires, storms, vibrations and the discovery of tiny cracks.
The build-up of large amounts of seaweed has twice forced reactors at Torness in East Lothian to close, in May and November 2013. The seaweed clogs filters that are part of the plant’s vital seawater cooling system.
The analysis was carried out by the Edinburgh-based nuclear consultant Pete Roche for a 50-strong group of nuclear-free local authorities.
The councils are calling for an urgent review of whether nuclear power can be relied on to provide enough power over the winter, while raising concerns about safety.
The high rate of unplanned shutdowns “has to be of great concern to the public for our energy security over this winter and onwards,” said the group’s chair, Manchester Labour councillor Mark Hackett.
“I call upon the UK Government, the National Grid and the nuclear regulators to urgently review the safety issues around such a large number of unplanned shutdowns.
“The Government also has to prioritise alternatives over the next 12 months to ensure the unreliability of nuclear power does not lead to the lights going off around the country.”
A major cause of shutdowns is the age of reactors, which are more than 30 years old and “past their sell-by dates”, argued Roche. Nine of the UK’s 15 reactors have been operating longer than originally planned, he added.
Roche also accused the French state company that runs the reactors, EDF Energy, of failing to report their performance to nuclear industry publications. This was because their operating record was poor compared to other countries, he alleged.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of the environmental group Friends Of The Earth Scotland, welcomed Roche’s analysis. “Just like the big lie that nuclear electricity would be cheap, we now find that it’s not reliable either,” he said.
Read more at Revealed: 20 nuclear shutdowns per year