The revelation, which comes just days
before the Prime Minister is expected to give the go-ahead to a new
generation of nuclear generators, has been revealed in
correspondence passed to Greenpeace UK between British Energy (BE),
who operate the reactors, and the Nuclear Safety Directorate
"These shocking documents don't just show
the structural damage to nuclear reactors in the UK, they show the
incompetence of the Government and British Energy who have known
about these risky cracks yet have refused to do anything about it,"
said Shaun Burnie, Greenpeace International nuclear campaigner. "It
is clear that Tony Blair should shut these dangerous reactors down.
Nuclear is never safe and Blair should not proceed with plans to
build even more nuclear plants, renewable energy is the safe, clean
answer to climate change - not nuclear."
The documents, analysed by independent
nuclear engineer John Large, show that the bricks which make up the
reactor cores of UK's 14 advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGRs)
currently in operation are cracked (1). In a severe event the
cracked graphite bricks could cause safety mechanisms to fail
potentially resulting in a nuclear accident.
"The nuclear safety case for these
reactors centres around the core remaining structurally sound
during operation. Yet these documents show that there are
considerable uncertainties about the core's ability to fulfil its
crucial safety role, said John Large. "In view of the increased
risk presented by the continued operation of these nuclear plants,
the reactors should be immediately shut down."
In an assessment report on the safety of
Hinkley Point AGR nuclear power station in Somerset, dated in April
this year, the NSD concluded that there is "an increased likelihood
of increased risk should we agree to continued operation" (2).
Local resident, Jim Duffy, who lives in
the shadow of Hinkley Point, (3) said: "I was appalled to read
these documents, it is clear that Hinkley is unsafe and should be
shut immediately. I'm extremely worried that Tony Blair seems
hell-bent on leaving my children, and future generations, exposed
to the legacy of our highly dangerous nuclear industry."
Greenpeace is an independent, campaigning
organisation which uses non-violent, creative confrontation to
expose global environmental problems, and to drive solutions
essential to a green and peaceful future.
Other contacts: Shaun Burnie, Greenpeace International nuclear campaigner, +44 772 591 5873Mhairi Dunlop, Greenpeace International communications, +44 7801 212 960
Notes: (1) There are 14 AGRs in the UK, across the following sites: Dungeness in Kent (2), Hartlepool (2), Heysham in Lancashire (4), Hinkley Point in Somerset (2), Hunterston in Ayrshire (2) and Torness in East Lothian (2).(2) The safety issues identified by the NSD are:* Graphite bricks that make up nuclear reactor cores are extensively cracked;* BE does not have a full understanding of why the reactor cores are cracked;* BE does not know the extent of the damage;BE does not know how much cracking the core can sustain before it falls below the minimum safety required for a nuclear reactor.(3) Jim Duffy is part of the 'Stop Hinkley' campaign and was the individual who got the Government's nuclear inspectors documents released through the freedom of information act.