Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Safety concerns over Chinese-French nuclear plants being built in UK


AS WE move into winter, the problems with the government’s ill-thought-out approach to the climate change narrative are becoming apparent: our electricity grid is creaking even before the really cold weather arrives; the increased demand for heat pumps and for electrical vehicles which will make our power supplies more precarious has not been planned for; unreliable renewables are failing to match the over-optimistic forecasts of their proponents, and the choice of European Pressurised water Reactors (EPRs) is being shown for the stupidity it is.

Things may well get worse, not just for the government, not just for UK industry but for everyone who depends on pumped sewage, pumped mains water, electrical heat and light etc. Which means all of us. In June the Hindustan Times carried a report which may make even the purblind, technologically-illiterate civil service and government of the UK sit up and take notice.

Under the heading ‘5 fuel rods broken in Taishan nuclear power plant, no radiation leak: China’, it said:

‘A Chinese nuclear power plant near Hong Kong had five broken fuel rods in a reactor but no radioactivity leaked, the government said Wednesday in its first confirmation of the incident that prompted concern over the facility’s safety.

‘Radiation rose inside the No 1 reactor of the Taishan Nuclear Power Plant in Guangdong province but was contained by barriers that functioned as planned, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said on its social media account . . .

‘The Taishan plant, which began commercial operation in December 2018, is owned by China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group and Electricite de France [the French state-controlled concern commonly known as EDF] . . .

‘They are the first of a new type called European Pressurized Reactors designed by Framatome, of which Electricite de France is the majority owner. Two more are being built in Finland and France.’

The troubled history of EPR construction has been much rehearsed, with the Finnish plant at Olkiluoto, which has had its fuel rods loaded, already years late and many times over budget. 

Another pair of EPRs are under construction at Hinkley Point in Somerset, and two more at Sizewell C, Suffolk, are awaiting approval by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng. The Times reported yesterday that the Taishan problem may lead to the need to redesign safety components at Hinkley Point and delay the start of electricity generation, planned for 2026. The project is already a decade behind schedule.

On November 29, Reuters reported that the soothing words about the Taishan leak containment from EDF are less than reassuring:

 ‘PARIS (Reuters) – A design flaw in the reactor pressure vessel could be the cause of a problem that was made public in June at French company EDF’s jointly-owned nuclear power plant in China, a French non-governmental organisation said, quoting a whistleblower . . .

‘It said that the whistleblower, whom it described as a French engineer who works in the nuclear industry and has access to detailed technical information about the Taishan reactor, had linked damage found on the fuel assemblies to “abnormal vibrations”. These vibrations could in turn be associated with a design flaw in the EPR pressure vessel, it quoted the whistleblower as saying.’

Rumours on the internet that the allowable radiation leak levels have been increased in the area of the plant have been firmly denied.

Boris Johnson’s plans for Net Zero depend on a fleet of these EPRs to keep the lights on while he blights the countryside with vast solar arrays and plants hundreds of wind turbines around our coastline. If Hinkley Point C is delayed further, Net Zero is unachievable. The only sensible road ahead is to cancel all EPR plans and accelerate the UK-designed Rolls-Royce Small Modular Reactors project.

Boris Johnson and his government are in the process of making the same errors which HMG made with the HS2 project, buying the wrong Peppa Pig in the wrong radioactive poke and paying too much for it. Before they get to the point of being able to claim it is too late to cancel these engineering disasters, they must be made to think again.

The (perhaps sarcastically named) website shows how to write to your MP. The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Climate Change is The Right Honourable Kwasi Kwarteng at BEIS. Your local newspaper, even if it’s one of those in the pocket of the Conservative party, may publish letters on the subject if they get too many of them to ignore.

This country has gone totally insane.  

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Julian Flood
Julian Flood
Julian Flood was a Vulcan captain at the age of 24. It’s all been rather downhill since then.

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