Nuclear plants showing signs of wear

Problems surfaced yesterday (Oct 16, 2006) in some of Britain's nuclear power stations. Unsurprisingly (since these stations are many years past their original design lifetimes) more cracks have been found in boiler tubes at Hunterston B in Scotland and Hinkley Point B in Gloucestershire. Only one of British Energy's eight plants is currently operating at full output (Torness). This has affected the price of British Energy shares. (......incidentally, I bought some shares in British energy in 1999. They have lost about 95% of their value...N.D.)

This is bad news for electricity consumers. The stations concerned have been shut down until the problems are resolved. The company has had to buy electricity from the wholesale market to meet contracts. The price of baseload electricity increased from 4.3 to 4.5p.

Analysts say that the company is paying the penalty for failing to invest enought to maintain plants now operating well beyond their operating life. One could argue, however, that we should be building new stations, not investing large sums in maintaining worn-out plant. One should also take the statements of accountants on nuclear matters with a large pinch of salt.

But - it's clear that the probability of power cuts this winter has increased again.

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