EDF plans to extend life of Hartlepool, Heysham 1

March 16, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News
EDF Energy’s Hartlepool nuclear plant, in northeastern England. (Photo: Wikipedia/Geni)

EDF Energy, owner and operator of the United Kingdom’s nuclear reactor fleet, announced last week that it intends to keep its Hartlepool and Heysham 1 stations in operation to March 2026—two years past their previously scheduled 2024 retirement dates. EDF added that an additional 12 months of operation beyond 2026 is being contemplated.

Both stations are marking 40 years of power generation this year. Hartlepool’s two advanced gas-cooled reactors boast a net capacity of 1,185 MWe, while Heysham 1’s AGRs are capable of 1,060 MWe. (The Heysham 1 station consists of two units that are also known as Heysham Units A1 and A2.) Together, the Hartlepool and Heysham 1 provide about 5 percent of Britain’s power supply.

According to EDF, the decision to keep the plants in service was made after a rigorous review of the technical and commercial cases for life extension. The utility specifically noted in its announcement that inspections of the graphite reactor cores in 2022 had increased confidence that the facilities could generate electricity for a longer period while maintaining regulatory standards.

What they’re saying: “Supplying zero-carbon and affordable electricity, whatever the weather, has never been more important than right now,” said Matt Sykes, managing director of EDF’s generation business. “Our ongoing investment and careful stewardship of the U.K. nuclear fleet since 2009 has allowed us to make today’s decision and helps support the U.K.’s energy security at this challenging time. As well as helping the U.K. reduce its use of imported gas, it is also great news for the 2,000 skilled people whose jobs are supported by these sites and will help preserve valuable technical and operational skills that will be critical as the U.K. seeks to rebuild its nuclear capability.”

Caveat: The United Kingdom’s Office for Nuclear Regulation responded to EDF’s announcement, noting that while a decision to extend the life of a nuclear plant does not require formal regulatory assessment or approval by ONR, the plant’s license does require operations to be carried out under a valid safety case.

“A number of the current safety cases for the stations will need to be updated to achieve EDF’s stated ambitions, together with investment in plant to sustain equipment reliability, all while ensuring that the necessary people and skills are on site,” ONR said. “The ongoing safety of operations will need to be fully demonstrated to us as part of the ongoing regulation of the sites in Lancashire [Heysham 1] and Teesside [Hartlepool], which will be informed through our extensive inspection and assessment regime.”

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 an 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 Heysham 2 and two-unit Torness. The estimated closure dates for those stations remain unchanged as March 2028.

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