By all accounts the most productive nuclear power plant in British history, Somerset’s Hinkley Point B station closed for good on August 1, with the shutdown of its B1 unit, a 485-MWe advanced gas-cooled reactor. (The plant’s B2 unit, a 480-MWe AGR, was shuttered early last month.)
The station employed around 500 staff and 250 contractors and contributed approximately £40 million (about $48.7 million) per year to the Somerset economy, according to EDF Energy, owner and operator of the United Kingdom’s power reactor fleet.
First synchronized to the U.K. power grid in February 1976, Hinkley Point B has since generated 311 terawatt-hours of electricity, EDF estimates—enough to meet the needs of every home in the United Kingdom for almost three years or every home in the southwest of England for 33 years.
Further, when compared to the output from a combined cycle gas turbine plant, Hinkley Point B has prevented 107 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere, the equivalent of removing 51 million cars from U.K. roads, the utility said.
Testimonials: “This is a day of mixed emotions for all of us,” said Mike Davies, Hinkley Point B station director. “We are justifiably proud of everything this station and its workforce have given to Somerset, and indeed the country, over decades of operations. . . . There is much to be proud of. This tiny corner of Somerset has produced huge amounts of zero-carbon electricity, supported and enriched our community, and helped sustain the southwest nuclear sector by providing thousands of well-paid, high-skilled jobs to our community. Now our attention turns to the job of defueling the power station.”
Added Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Industry Association: “The dedicated staff who have helped keep homes in the southwest warm and light for 46 years deserve our gratitude. As the current energy crisis demonstrates, without nuclear, the cost of the electricity we rely on is higher and leaves us reliant on burning imported fossil fuels. That’s why we need new nuclear.”
Background: Under an agreement with the U.K. government signed on June 23, 2021, EDF is responsible for defueling all of the U.K.’s AGR nuclear stations over this decade. (The agreement does not include Sizewell B, which houses a 1,198-MWe pressurized water reactor slated to continue operating until at least 2035, or Hinkley Point C, which is currently under construction.) AGR plants still in operation include the two-unit Hartlepool in Durham, the four-unit Heysham in Lancashire, and the two-unit Torness in East Lothian.