Cracks Have Been Found On A Nuclear Reactor In Scotland That May Lead To Evacuations Of Major Cities

Cracks Have Been Found On A Nuclear Reactor In Scotland That May Lead To Evacuations Of Major Cities

Fans of Chernobyl know that nuclear incidents are serious business and it seems that we are doomed to remake our past mistakes.

Exactly one month after the premiere of the hit HBO miniseries Chernobyl news of cracks to a nuclear reactor at the Hunterston B nuclear power plant near Ardrossan, Scotland are flooding the internet. 

Scotland is home to two of Europe's oldest nuclear reactors, one of these is the Hunterston B nuclear power plant at 43 years old. Both plants are way beyond their operating lifetime and have had their operating life extended on two occasions by the EDF Energy. Both reactors are scheduled to be decommissioned in 2023, but currently, the power plant holds serious safety issues.  

Hunterston B nuclear power plant

Edinburgh Live reports that the reactors have what is known as keyway root-cracking. This is a process where the graphite moderator cores that are housed inside of the reactor develop cracks. These cracks can cause instability within the core which can lead to a major nuclear incident. Persons who have watched the Chernobyl miniseries on HBO would have a very good idea of what can be the potential risk of such an incident.

The reactors have been off due to the cracks since October 2018 but EDF Energy who owns the plant is lobbying for its reopening stating that the probability of a meltdown is very low. However, it is very important to note a meltdown of the plant would have severe consequences, the minimum of which would be an evacuation of Edinburgh and Glasgow due to radioactive contamination. As we know radioactive contamination can leave an area uninhabitable for generations. So is a couple more years of turning profits really worth the loss of life, landscape, flora, and fauna that is likely to occur? Would shareholders knowingly take such a risk?

Two of the lobbyist against restarting the reactor are Dr.Ian Fairlie, an independent consultant on radioactivity in the environment and Dr. David Toke,  Reader in Energy Policy at the University of Aberdeen.

The calm before the calamity.

They had this to say:

This is a serious matter because if an untoward incident were to occur – for example an earth tremor, gas excursion, steam surge, sudden outage, or sudden depressurisation, the barrels could become dislodged and/or misaligned.

These events could in turn lead to large emissions of radioactive gases. Further, if hot spots were to occur and if nuclear fuel were to react with the graphite moderator they could lead to explosions inside the reactor core.

In the very worst case the hot graphite core could become exposed to air and ignite leading to radioactive contamination of large areas of central Scotland, including the metropolitan areas of Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The last period which saw the operational life of the reactors in the Hunterston B nuclear power plant get a renewal had an operational limit of 350 cracks which inspection has revealed that it is currently exceeding. The EDF is petitioning for this operational limit to be doubled to 700 cracks.

Hopefully, the persons in charge learn from mistakes of the past and don't take any risks when it comes to nuclear reactors.

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