EDF, in its annual fleet update, said it plans to invest a further £1.3bn ($1.65bn) in the UK’s five generating NPPs over 2024-26, taking the total invested in the fleet to nearly £9bn since 2009. EDF Energy manages the UK’s eight nuclear power station sites, five in operation (Sizewell B, Torness, Heysham 2, Heysham 1, Hartlepool) and three that are being defuelled pending decommissioning (Hunterston B, Hinkley Point B and Dungeness B).

EDF said UK nuclear output in 2023 was 37.3 TWh, 15% lower than in 2022 as a result of station closures and statutory outages but nevertheless four times the forecast when EDF acquired the fleet in 2009. EDF plans to maintain output around this level until at least 2026.

“This improved outlook has been driven by life extensions announced for Heysham 1 and Hartlepool in March 2023,” EDF noted. “The ambition is to further extend the lives of the four generating AGR (advanced gas-cooled reactor] stations, subject to inspections and regulatory approvals; a decision will be taken by the end of 2024.” These are Torness, Heysham 2, Heysham 1 and

EDF stressed that without its investment and expertise, Sizewell B would be the only operational nuclear power station in the UK today and nuclear would provide just 3% of the UK’s power consumption rather than the current 13%. Sizewell B has so far generated over 250TWh in its 29 years of operation “and has the potential to generate for at least a further 20 years beyond its current end of generation date of 2035”. EDF is investing in the station “to allow a final investment decision to be taken on this during 2025; securing a sustainable commercial model is necessary to enable such a decision”.

Dr Mark Hartley, Managing Director of EDF’s Nuclear Operations business, pointed to the company’s strong track record of safely operating the UK’s existing nuclear fleet, delivering over 35% more clean power than initially forecast. “Looking ahead, our aim is to maintain output from the four AGR stations for as long as possible and extend Sizewell B by a further 20 years, out to 2055. Maximising output also helps preserve the critical nuclear skills and capabilities that will be valuable for future nuclear projects,” he said.

EDF is also building two new units with EPR reactors at Hinkley Point C in Somerset and plans to build a similar plant at Sizewell C in Suffolk

EDF’s annual update lists the following benefits from its 15-year investment in the UK nuclear fleet:

  • The stations have generated over 35% more electricity than initially forecast at the time of acquisition.
  • This has sustained employment for over 4,000 critical operational and technical skills, while the UK’s new nuclear programme begins to take shape, as well as thousands of jobs in the supply chain. Over 500 people have transferred from operations to Hinkley Point C in the last decade.
  • Additional tax payments to Government under the new Electricity Generators Levy (EGL) are estimated to be over £600m over the 2023-2025 period; for 2023 they will be around £200m with EDF’s average realised price at £90 per MWh.

As to those plants preparing for decommissioning, EDF said Hunterston B is already more than halfway through defuelling and Hinkley Point B is over a quarter of the way through. Both stations are due to transfer to Nuclear Restoration Services (formerly Magnox) in 2026 for long term decommissioning. Dungeness B started defuelling operations in May 2023. Under the 2021 decommissioning agreement with the Government, EDF will defuel the stations and NRS will manage the long-term programme. Funding for this is provided through the Nuclear Liabilities Fund (NLF), which had a fund size of £20.4bn at 31 March 2023.

Image: Heysham 1 nuclear power station on the north west coast of England near Lancaster (courtesy of EDF)