Two large gas circulators vital for cooling the reactor and preventing meltdown were badly damaged because someone mistakenly switched off the oil meant to lubricate them. And on Thursday the reactor had to be unexpectedly shut down after running for just four days because its turbine generator was shaking more than it should.
These latest mishaps come after the discovery of two worrying new cracks in the reactor’s graphite bricks, as well as a rash of nuclear incidents across Scotland last week. A ship carrying radioactive waste caught fire and went adrift in the Moray Firth, there was a fire at the Dounreay nuclear complex in Caithness and excess emissions of radioactive tritium gas came under investigation at Chapelcross in Dumfries and Galloway.
Critics say the Hunterston plant, which opened in 1976, is showing its age and question plans to keep it running until at least 2023. “Last week served up examples of pretty much everything that is wrong about nuclear power,” said Lang Banks, director of the environmental group, WWF Scotland.
“Even long after they've stopped producing their last bit of very expensive electricity, nuclear power leaves a hazardous and very expensive legacy. After the past week, anyone who thinks it has any role to play in Scotland's energy future should reconsider their position.”