EDF Energy has delayed restarting two nuclear reactors at Hunterston in Ayrshire because of growing concerns about their safety.

In the last few months, 370 cracks have been identified in the graphite core of reactor three and an estimated 200 cracks have been found in reactor four. The Office for Nuclear Regulation, a government quango, says the operational safety limit is 350.

Nuclear policy consultant and CND council member, Dr Ian Fairlie, has warned that restarting the reactors could lead to a major nuclear accident.

He told The Ferret in January “although the risks of a major adverse event at Hunterston are relatively small, one has to take into account what the worst case scenario could be, and that is pretty serious indeed – the radioactive contamination and evacuation of both Glasgow and Edinburgh.”

“There is only one thing you can do and that is close them, as they cannot be repaired.”

The reactors originally started producing energy in 1976 and they were due to close in 2006, but EDF Energy now plans to keep them going until 2023. The energy company has struggled to persuade the regulator they are safe enough to be restarted since they were paused in 2018.

The energy company has argued that limiting the number of cracks to 350 is too strict and has suggested substantially increasing the limit to 700 cracks.

Kate Hudson, CND general secretary, said:

“These reactors must not be allowed to restart – it’s clear the dangers are too great. On the eighth anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, we are reminded that nuclear accidents do happen even with tough nuclear regulations. The government must not be pressured into loosening rules as EDF Energy has suggested.

“With the government nuclear energy policy in tatters, it’s time to close down all the nuclear reactors for good and scrap plans for new ones.”