Will the safety flaws in a French nuclear power station design put us all at risk or was it just Murdoch mischief ?

As concerns are freely raised about expense, security and waste disposal, the warning from the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety about the Hinkley reactor’s design safety is no longer being discussed, despite evidence recently reported in the Times and the Telegraph.


The Flamanville vessel being lowered into position

The institute warned France’s top nuclear safety regulator that there were “multiple failure modes” that could have “grave consequences” on the safety relief valves on the Flamanville pressure vessel, which play a key role in regulating pressure in the reactor. Robin Pagnamenta, Energy Editor of the Times, reported that EDF may have to cut output or walk away, as the same design is earmarked for Hinkley Point in Somerset.

The regulator is concerned that the French manufacturer of the pressure vessel, Areva, used the wrong manufacturing method, allowing for the creation of weak spots in which there is too much carbon in the steel. The pressure vessel was placed inside the main reactor building in 2012. It is surrounded by thousands of tonnes of hardened concrete as well as other components, from which it would need to be cut.

The pressure vessel for Hinkley Point has not yet been manufactured. Should we adopt the Finnish decision to use a safer Japanese product – or ditch the hugely expensive project and redirect money into reliable tidal power now gaining ground in Scotland?