EDF announced today its "proactive decision" to move the Hinkley Point B nuclear power plant into the defuelling phase, no later than 15 July 2022. The plant, which is in Somerset, England has been in operation for 45 years.
Hinkley Point B started generating low-carbon electricity in 1976 and since then has safely produced more than 300 TWh of power - enough to meet the electricity requirements of every home in the UK for three years.
Peter Evans, the plant's director, said: "This station has delivered more low-carbon energy during its lifetime than any other UK nuclear station. This is an outstanding achievement and a testament to the dedication of all those who have worked here over the decades. 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."
In 2012, EDF extended the estimated generating life of Hinkley Point B by seven years, from 2016 to March 2023. Today’s announcement means the site will stop generating just a few months ahead of this and over 15 years longer than originally planned in the 1960s.
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 the regulator's approval.
Once Hinkley Point B stops generating power for good, EDF will take on defuelling the station, the first stage of the nuclear decommissioning process and one expected to take several years. The company said that defuelling will involve continued use of its teams and specialist supply chain companies.
Matt Sykes, Managing Director of EDF Generation, said: "Running a nuclear power plant this efficiently for over 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.
"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 is building two EPRs at Hinkley Point C and developing plans for a replica plant at Sizewell C, in Suffolk.
Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association, said EDF's announcement was a reminder of the urgency of investing in new nuclear capacity to meet the government's target of net zero by 2050.
"Hinkley Point B has produced more clean electricity and saved more emissions, 105 million tonnes, than any other single power station in British history. It can only be replaced by new nuclear stations that produce the same reliable, always-on, emissions-free power that Hinkley has provided for more than 40 years," he said.
"The nuclear projects already in the pipeline can deliver this backbone of clean power and will generate tens of thousands of secure, skilled and well-paid jobs across the country. We hope that the government will support its announcements on large and small-scale reactors this week by setting out a clear path to progress new nuclear capacity in the forthcoming Energy White Paper."