Friday, 8 March 2019

The real story about the stricken Hunterston B nuclear power station


Incorrect Statements in BBC News “Hunterston B: Pictures show cracks in Ayrshire nuclear reactor”
By Dr IAN FAIRLIE, Independent Consultant and
Dr DAVID TOKE, Reader in Energy Policy at the University of Aberdeen

On March 8, the BBC published a news item (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-47485321)  about cracks in the Hunterston B nuclear reactors. Whilst it is good that the story highlighted reporting of the safety issues surrounding the plant and, in particular, included photographs of the cracked graphite core, we wish to correct several inaccuracies.  
The BBC article claims that early decommissioning could cause serious energy supply problems. This is simply not the case and is alarmist nonsense: the reality is that Scotland has, if anything, an oversupply of electricity. Both Hunterston and Torness could be closed without problem to Scotland’s electricity supplies. See https://www.ianfairlie.org/news/why-hunterston-b-nuclear-power-station-should-not-be-restarted/
The BBC article then stated it would probably mean more power coming from fossil fuels such as gas. Again this is incorrect: most likely it would come from the renewables. Again see https://www.ianfairlie.org/news/why-hunterston-b-nuclear-power-station-should-not-be-restarted/

The BBC article claims that Hunterston “supports around 700 posts”. This is incorrect. According to ONS data, AGR stations like Hunterston B in fact provide about 350 direct jobs on average.

The BBC article then states that “Concerns have also been raised about the consequences for local jobs if Hunterston closed early.”As pointed out in our article, few if any jobs would be lost if the reactors Hunterston B were closed permanently: dealing with the immense heat rates from radioactive decay even from closed reactors will guarantee jobs there for the first 2 to 3 years. After that decommissioning will provide more jobs then when the reactors operated, just as is occurring at the closed reactors at Dounreay. 

The BBC cites Councillor Tom Marshall as stating: "Most of the large employers round about here have disappeared - and this is one of the last major employers. So, if it is safe to run most people locally would be happy to see it running."

We obviously share the concerns of local people about deindustrialisation and the appalling effects of the UK Government’s uncivilised austerity programmes in Scotland. But local councillors should not be misled by incorrect statements by the nuclear industry. Closing Hunterston B for good will not lead to large numbers of job losses: the contrary in fact.

Dr Ian Fairlie
Dr David Toke

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