THE nuclear industry is secretly bidding to relax safety standards to allow the doubling of the number of cracks in the radioactive cores of Scotland’s ageing reactors
EDF Energy is asking for the safety rules to be rewritten so that it can keep running its nuclear power stations at Hunterston in North Ayrshire and Torness in East Lothian until they are at least 47 and 42 years old. They were originally designed to last 30 years.
Prolonged radiation bombardment causes the thousands of graphite bricks that make up reactor cores to crack, threatening a safe shutdown. But EDF is asking the UK government’s watchdog, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), to permit an increase in the proportion of cracked bricks from 10 to 20 per cent.
EDF’s bid to relax safety standards at Hunterston and Torness is highlighted in a new report today for the Scottish Greens. It concludes that the risks from graphite cracking are serious and argues that an international convention demands that environmental risks must be assessed, alternative energy sources considered and the public consulted.
“The Scottish Government should ask itself if it really wants ageing reactors to continue operating and producing nuclear waste for up to another thirteen years – gambling with public safety – when we know that there are plenty of ways to provide alternative sources of energy.”
Scottish Green MSP for West of Scotland, Ross Greer, warned that communities would be concerned about proposals to allow more cracking. “The lack of public consultation is just unacceptable,” he told the Sunday Herald.
“If we did this properly, the public would reject an ageing, cracking, safety hazard. The Scottish Government’s relaxed position on nuclear needs challenged. We simply don’t need to sweat these plants and add to our toxic legacy.”
John Large, a consulting nuclear engineer, pointed out that the integrity of the graphite bricks was vital to nuclear safety. If they failed, they could block channels that enable control rods to be inserted to close down reactors and prevent them from overheating.
Read more at Safety fears over EDF bid to permit doubling of nuclear reactor cracks