ANTI-NUCLEAR campaigners have demanded the permanent closure of Hinkley B power station after cracks in boiler tubes were found in one of the plant's reactors.

As reported in the County Gazette two weeks ago, bosses at the station, owned by British Energy, brought forward a three-yearly statutory inspection of the reactor as a "prudent measure" following the discovery of cracks in an identical reactor at Hunterston plant, Ayrshire.

Jim Duffy, spokesman for anti-nuclear campaign group Stop Hinkley, said: "British Energy seem hell-bent on running this reactor into the ground to win every shilling from it.

"The extended shut down for these repairs and the loss of electricity output renders the economic viability of the reactors at Hinkley Point even more doubtful.

"Stop Hinkley demands that these ageing, crumbling reactors should immediately shut down completely and remain permanently closed."

Martin Pearce, a spokesman for British Energy, said yesterday: "This shut down was planned and will not affect the country's electricity supply.

"Once we have made the necessary repairs, the nuclear industry regulator will decide whether it is safe to start up the reactor again."

Each of Hinkley B's two advanced gas-cooled reactors provide 1.5% of the UK's electricity. British Energy anticipates the plant, built in the 1960s, will close in 2011.