This letter was sent to the editors of the Scotsman and the Herald on September 25, 2020.
Very recently, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) gave permissions to EDF to re-start for six months two ancient, unsafe reactors at the Hunterston B nuclear power station on the Clyde coast. These reactors are among the oldest in the world and should have been closed over a decade ago. They have been shut for 2 ½ years in one case and 1 ½ years in the other because they were unsafe due to large numbers of cracks and the loss of graphite in their cores. These are fundamentally serious matters as these cores moderate the flow of neutrons which essentially power the reactors.
The ONR claims that EDF have done computer modelling and made predictions that the reactors are likely to be safe for another six months. But EDF’s modelling in the past has a poor track record. The reality is that no one can predict with certainty how graphite cores will react more than a decade past their official closing dates. Even worse, the ONR has indicated they may even give longer permissions for up to a year.
In our view, the ONR’s surprising decisions are an affront to any concept of the Precautionary Principle which says we should err on the side of safety. Instead ONR is saying we are not 100% sure but go ahead anyway. This is unacceptable and we object in the strongest terms.
The essence of the matter is that while the probability of a serious nuclear accident at Hunterston B remains low, the possible consequences are so large – the radioactive contamination of Central Scotland – that such risks should not be undertaken by any reasonable authority. It is disturbing that the ONR has refrained from publishing any analyses of possible worst-case scenarios and their probabilities.
Who will benefit from these re-starts? EDF in Paris, France will see the income of their UK subsidiary rise. Who will be exposed to the inherent risks? The populations of Edinburgh and Glasgow, as these cities could be contaminated by radioactive fallout in the event of a serious nuclear accident such as occurred at Chernobyl and Fukushima.
Both the Westminster and the Scottish Governments have roles here but their silence is deafening. This is an abdication of their paramount duty of care to the Scottish people. As Cicero, the Roman consul, stated two thousand years ago, the safety of the people is the supreme law.
We call upon the Scottish Government to intervene and request the ONR to re-consider their unwise decisions at Hunterston B.
Dr Ian Fairlie, Vice President CND (for correspondence)
Dr Richard Dixon, Director, Friends of the Earth (Scotland)
Linda Grainey, local resident
Professor Lynn Jamieson, University of Edinburgh, Chair of Scottish CND
Alannah Maurer, local resident
Elizabeth McLardy MBE, local resident
Ellen Renton, local resident
Peter Roche, Environmental Consultant
Dr David Toke, Reader, University of Aberdeen