East Lothian: First cracks discovered in the Torness nuclear reactor

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The first cracks have appeared in the Torness nuclear power station in East Lothian prompting anti-nuclear campaigners to argue the plant should be shut down sooner than planned.

The Ferret reported the operator of the plant, EDF Energy, said three cracks had been found in the graphite core of one of the reactors in a letter to a local liaison group in February.

According to EDF the cracks were expected and would not “on their own” impact the safety of the power station. Despite this, campaigners are calling for its closure date to be brought forward from 2028.

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The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) predicted in 2020 that Torness would start cracking six years sooner than previously expected, in 2022. At this point EDF brought the plant's planned closure date forward by two years from 2030 to 2028.

Anti-nuclear campaigners are arguing that it may need to shut as early as 2024 to avoid any “unnecessary” risks as the cracking continues to escalate.

The two reactors have been operational at Torness near Dunbar since 1989 when the plant was opened by Margaret Thatcher, the then-Prime Minister. According to EDF the plant employs around 500 staff and 200 contractors, and contributes around £45 million to the local economy.

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The cracks were identified at the start of the year on one of the reactors as part of an inspection process which takes place every six months. They are fissures at the base of key slots in the graphite cores and are known as keyway root cracks.

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East Lothian: First cracks discovered in the Torness nuclear reactorEast Lothian: First cracks discovered in the Torness nuclear reactor
East Lothian: First cracks discovered in the Torness nuclear reactor

Another inspection is due to be carried out in May which will assess whether additional cracks have formed in the last few months.

Dr Richard Dixon, who stepped down as director of Friends of the Earth Scotland on March 31, said the cracking raised more questions about the safety of keeping the plant open for another six years.

He added: “Nuclear is incredibly expensive, and suffers from complex problems, as well as creating waste which will have to be looked after for thousands of years. Scotland is well on its way to getting all of our power from safe renewables whilst nuclear is yesterday’s technology.”

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