EDF Energy has made a “proactive decision” to move Britain’s Hinkley Point B power station into its defueling phase no later than July 15, 2022—some eight months earlier than previously scheduled—the company announced on November 19.
The two-unit plant, located in Somerset, England, began generating electricity in 1976 and has since produced more than 300 TWh of power, enough to meet the electricity requirements of every home in the United Kingdom for three years, according to EDF.
The reason: In 2012, EDF extended the estimated generating life of Hinkley Point B by seven years, from 2016 to March 2023. However, after suspending power generation at the plant in June of this year to perform graphite inspections and conduct maintenance, the company identified certain aging issues.
“Running a nuclear power plant this efficiently for over 40 years leads to changes in the reactors,” said Matt Sykes, managing director of EDF Generation. “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. 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.”
EDF noted that it will soon submit the safety case required for the restart of operations at Hinkley Point B to the Office for Nuclear Regulation for review.
A salute: “This station has delivered more low-carbon energy during its lifetime than any other U.K. nuclear station,” said Peter Evans, station director of Hinkley Point B. “This is an outstanding achievement and a testament to the dedication of all those who have worked here over the decades.”
He added, “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, he said, Hunkley Point B has helped the U.K. avoid millions of tons of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere and provided jobs for thousands of people and supply chain partners.
From B to C: EDF is building two 1,630-MWe European pressurized water reactors at the Hinkley Point site (the Hinkley Point B units are advanced gas-cooled reactors) and is developing plans for a replica plant at Sizewell C. Hinkley Point C1 and C2 are scheduled to begin commercial operation in 2025 and 2026, respectively. If completed, they will be the first new nuclear units in the United Kingdom since Sizewell B began commercial operation in 1995.