Sunday, October 17, 2021

UK nuclear plants a ‘clown car’, says ONR scientist

Must read

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Sizewell C, built in 1957, uses a steam turbine rather than a nuclear fission reactor

A scientist at the government’s UK Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has called Sizewell B nuclear plant a “clown car” and warned of the safety of Wylfa B, the government’s other nuclear plant.

Deputy Director Andy White, told an annual meeting of the Institution of Engineering and Technology: “We need to look out for the future – and do what is right now.

“We just have a clown car on our hands called Sizewell B.”

It comes amid a row over whether the plant is needed in the future.

Wylfa is currently due to shut down in 2023 after Britain is on its way out of the EU.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption A screenshot from Sizewell B’s website that references the 50th anniversary of the facility in 2018

Mr White said it is essential that the government knows if the nation needs to replace the ageing technology on Hinkley Point C and Wylfa B with advanced reactors like those under development in France, Denmark and Sweden.

“A decision has to be made on that question – do we replace Wylfa B with [advanced] reactors, or do we not replace Hinkley Point C or do we buy Wylfa from the private sector.”

Last year, a report commissioned by the ONR said Sizewell was the only nuclear power plant with a hydrogen generation unit left in Britain.

“The future of Hinkley Point C and Sizewell B are firmly inter-linked,” the ONR report said.

“If Sizewell B is closed, then Hinkley Point C will have to be closed too, but it does not mean that Sizewell B has a continued future.

“The existing reactors at Sizewell B would continue to operate as normal, but not in Sizewell’s current configuration, with its hydrogen generation unit removed – although maintenance and repair work could continue in a phased manner.

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption A graphic showing where Wylfa B stands in relation to other nuclear power plants

“If Hinkley Point C is built in the future, it will be built in a way that is significantly different to the designs and stages of its design.

“As a result, it is likely that Sizewell B would not survive the process of decommissioning.”

It is unclear if Sizewell B – which is also the largest of the old nuclear reactors still operating in the UK – would be at risk of being replaced by Hinkley Point C.

Officials at the ONR also want to learn more about the possibility of using gas turbines, which have been used in Norway and Spain, instead of the traditional steam turbines.

But some nuclear engineers have doubts that such a new technology is possible.

John Geddes, director of technology at the Nuclear Industry Association, said gas turbines use larger coolant vessels and that the technology may not be safe.

“Because Sizewell B uses a steam turbine like a combustion turbine it is not very efficient.

“It’s not able to get to really low temperatures that would be suitable for gas turbines.”

More articles

Latest article