Letter to the Hunterston Site Stakeholder Group - 27 August
Dear SSG member,
As a member of the local community I am writing to tell you that we are preparing to bring Hunterston B’s Reactor 3 back online following a two year inspection and investment programme which has given the regulator, the ONR, the confidence that the station would shut down as designed even in an earthquake far worse than the UK has ever experienced.
To give clarity to our people, to the North Ayrshire community and to our business partners we have made the decision that Hunterston B will move into the first phase of nuclear decommissioning, defuelling, no later than 7 January 2022. This will be subject to further regulatory approval following inspections in six months’ time.
Hunterston B has made a major contribution to the UK over the past 44 years and, over its generating life, has safely produced enough low carbon electricity to power the whole of Scotland for eight years. I have spent much of the last decade working here and my focus, and that of my team, over the coming period will be on safely delivering that last period of generation as well as the transition into defuelling.
EDF will also carry out the task of defuelling the station. You will be aware from our meetings that preparations for this have been underway for some time now. This process will take a few years, helping to sustain a high quality jobs on site as well as work with specialist supply chain companies.
As Reactor 3 returns to service I think it is worth reiterating that since the decision was made to take it offline, we have completed the most extensive investigation of an Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) core ever undertaken. This has provided us with valuable knowledge about the condition of the graphite core and means we have been able to demonstrate that graphite cracking does not challenge normal operations at Hunterston B and even in the most extreme conditions, like an earthquake larger than ever experienced in the UK, the reactor will safely shutdown as designed.
We have a specialist team of graphite experts working on the programme and have invested more than £200m over the past six years. We have also partnered with expert academics and leading consultancies across the UK to confirm our understanding of how the graphite in our reactors will change over time. You can find out more about some of this work on our graphite web page.
The safety case for the return to service of Reactor 4 is being assessed by the ONR and, subject to its approval, we have a published return to service date of 17 September.
As SSG members you have been part of the station’s journey over the past few years while inspections have been carried out and safety cases written and assessed. Throughout that time we have endeavoured to help you understand the issue and keep you up to date with developments. I am committed to continuing that communication as Hunterston B approaches a new stage in its operations and make an open offer to you that if you have any questions about the station, please feel free to make contact.
You can ring the Station on 01294 826000 and ask for our Communications Officer, Nikki Thomson.