EDF Energy said on 19 November that it will begin defuelling the Hinkley Point B nuclear power plant by no later than 15 July 2022 in preparation for decommissioning. The plant, which began operation in 1976, has, to date, produced more than 300TWh of electricity.
Peter Evans, Hinkley Point B Station Director said the station has delivered more low carbon energy during its lifetime than any other UK nuclear station. “When work started on this generation of nuclear reactors in the 1960s, few could have anticipated how important it has become to generate our power with little or no emissions. Over its life, this station has helped the UK avoid millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere and provided rewarding jobs for thousands of people and supply chain partners across Britain. Although there is much change to come, this is a moment to be proud of what we have achieved.”
In 2012 EDF extended the estimated generating life of Hinkley Point B by seven years, from 2016 to March 2023. However, the plant is facing ageing problems, such as cracks in the graphite reactor cores. The station suspended power generation in June 2020, in order to undertake extensive graphite inspections and conduct maintenance. EDF has developed the safety case required to re-start operations and this will soon be with the Office for Nuclear Regulation for review. Further generation is wholly conditional upon their approval.
Matt Sykes, managing director of EDF Generation, said: “While EDF has been busy building the first in the next generation of nuclear reactors next door, Hinkley Point B power station has been playing a critical part in keeping the UK’s lights on and emissions down.” He explained that a nuclear plant efficiently for more than 40 years leads to changes in the reactors. “Our inspections of Hinkley’s reactor cores this year show that the graphite blocks are in exactly the sort of condition we predicted they would be at this stage in the station’s lifetime.”
He added: “As a responsible operator we feel it is now the right thing to do to give clarity to our staff, partners and community about the future life of the station, which is why we have made this proactive decision. I would like to pay tribute to all those associated with Hinkley Point B for their outstanding professionalism and wish them well with the next chapter.”
EDF said earlier this year that it would start decommissioning its Hunterston B NPP in Scotland by January 2022 at the latest, also earlier than previously expected.
Half of the UK’s eight operating nuclear power plants are due to move into decommissioning by March 2024, removing around 4GWe of capacity.
Photo: Hinkley Point C will enter decommissioning by 15 July 2022 (Credit: EDF Energy)