Probe shuts down nuclear reactors in Hartlepool

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TWO reactors at Hartlepool’s nuclear power station have been shut down for eight weeks after a defect was found in a boiler at its sister station.

Bosses at EDF Energy have begun investigations after the defect was discovered in the boiler spine of Reactor 1 at the Heysham 1 site in Lancashire.

An EDF statement issued today said: “Although routine inspections of other boiler spines have not previously indicated any similar defects EDF Energy has taken the conservative decision to shut down Heysham 1 Reactor 2 and Hartlepool Reactors 1 and 2 that are of similar design over the next few days to carry out further inspections in order to satisfy itself and the Regulator that the reactors can be safely returned to service.”

Bosses say an “unexpected result” was first spotted when Heysham’s Reactor 1 was shut down for routine maintenance last year. Inspectors found the problem during a routine ultrasonic inspection of a boiler spine - which is the central metal tube around which a reactor’s boiler tubes are assembled.

Every boiler was scrutinised at Hartlepool and Heysham and none of the other seven had any problems.

Heysham’s Reactor 1 was returned to service on a reduced load and the affected boiler area was isolated pending further investigations.

But even more tests were carried out in June this year, and it showed there was a defect - although experts are still investigating the exact nature of it.

In the meantime, two reactors at Heysham 1 and Hartlepool Reactors 1 and 2 have been shut down, with EDF bosses saying: “It is not possible to advise exact return to service dates for these four reactors, however, an initial estimate is that these investigations will take around eight weeks.

“EDF Energy’s other nuclear power stations are not affected by this issue as they are of a different design.”

The Hartlepool nuclear power station currently has a life extension until 2019.