Just days after EDF announced that its Dungeness power station won’t come back online, the French utility giant has admitted that two other members of its UK nuclear fleet are at risk of early closure. The Times reports that safety issues could force Torness in East Lothian, Scotland and Heysham 2 (pictured) near Lancaster to shut years ahead of their planned 2030 closure dates. The admission follows announcements of early closures of Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B and as the UK’s next generation of nuclear reactors struggles to get off the ground. The loss of nuclear power stations, until recently responsible for generating a fifth of Great Britain’s electricity, could jeopardise the country’s campaign to phase out fossil fuels and meet its legally binding decarbonisation targets.
Simply Switch 21st June 2021 read more »
Britain prepares for new wave of nuclear decommissioning. Dungeness B nuclear power station in Kent has not been operational since 2018 as engineers tried to fix problems, including corrosion and cracks in its pipework. At Dungeness workers are making preparations to carefully remove thousands of radioactive fuel elements from its reactors and transfer them to a purpose-built pond for at least 90 days for cooling. The spent fuel will later be packed into 53-tonne “flasks” fortified with 39cm-thick steel walls before being transported across country by train to Sellafield in Cumbria. The 1.1GW plant is the first of seven built in the UK between the mid-1960s and late-1980s using advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGR) technology to come out of service. It will kickstart a decommissioning process spanning generations, which sceptics argue strikes at the heart of why no new nuclear plants should be built. The remaining six AGR plants are due to be retired by the end of this decade at the latest, leaving the more modern Sizewell B plant in Suffolk, which uses pressurised water reactor technology, as the only one operational out of the existing fleet. “[Decommissioning of] many of these facilities will continue well into the 22nd century,” said Paul Dorfman of University College London’s Energy Institute. “The problem with decommissioning is it always turns out to be more complex than one had imagined.” Critics also point out that the decommissioning of Britain’s 17 earliest atomic power sites has been extremely costly. The latest clean-up bill for those sites, which include a generation of nuclear plants known as the “Magnox” stations, is estimated at more than £130bn over 120 years. Nuclear supporters have seized upon the retirement of the first AGR to highlight that the UK is fast running out of a vital source of low carbon electricity that — unlike the main renewables, wind and solar — is available throughout the year, no matter the weather. Five of the AGR plants are due to be shut down in the next three years, removing more than 5.2GW of the current 8.9GW of nuclear energy capacity, which accounts for just under a fifth of total UK generating capacity. Only one new plant is under construction, the 3.2GW Hinkley Point C in Somerset, which will be able to provide electricity for 6m homes when it is completed by EDF. It is due to open in 2026 but has been troubled by spiralling costs and delays. Reports last week of a possible radiation leak at a plant in China, which is based on the same Franco-German reactor technology as that at Hinkley, have heightened concerns among opponents of nuclear power. Proponents are pushing ministers to make progress in negotiations with EDF about financing a second new station — Sizewell C in Suffolk — which have been ongoing since December.
FT 22nd June 2021 read more »