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Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactors

Volume 281: debated on Tuesday 16 July 1996

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To ask the President of the Board of Trade what implications the shutdown of the reactors at Hinckley Point B and Hunterston have for electricity supply; and what is the estimated impact on the income stream of British Energy. [37603]

The total generating capacity for the electricity markets in Great Britain was 67,620MW at 31 March 1996. Hinkley Point B has a generating capacity of l,270MW, 1.9 per cent. of the total and Hunterston B has a generating capacity of 1,195MW, 1.8 per cent. of the total. The impact on the income stream of British Energy is a commercial matter for the company.

To ask the President of the Board of Trade (1) what factors underlay the timing of the disclosure to the public of news of the shutdown of the AGR reactors at Hinckley Point B and Hunterston; [37601](2) what implications the technical faults at Hinckley Point B and Hunterston have for the other five advanced gas-cooled reactors; [37602](3) when he was first informed that there was a serious technical fault with the advanced gas-cooled reactors at Hinckley Point B and Hunterston; and if he will make a statement; [37599](4) what recent advice he has received from the nuclear installations inspectorate about the advanced gas-cooled reactors at Hinckley Point B and Hunterston; and when he received its report. [37600]

AGR technical issues are covered in the British Energy prospectus published on 26 June.A continuing programme of steam pipe inspections revealed a crack in a weld at Hinkley Point B which was made public by British Energy on 4 July. Following examination of the cracked weld Nuclear Electric and Scottish Nuclear decided to shut down one reactor at each of Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B power stations, as a precautionary measure, on the evening of Tuesday 9 July. I was informed of the decision to shut down the reactors at about 9 am on Wednesday 10 July. My officials were in close touch with British Energy while the company established with their advisers that their financial position was not significantly affected. A press release was issued at 5.30 pm on 10 July after a high level group at the company had reviewed the evidence from the metallurgical examination and considered the possible financial implications.DTI has been kept fully informed of these developments by British Energy. The Health and Safety Executive's nuclear installations inspectorate has confirmed that it is content with he licensees' actions.