The energy company had hoped to continue generating electricity from the 44-year-old Firth of Clyde nuclear power plant until 2023, after investing more than £ 200million in repairing the reactor.
He confirmed his intention to restart one of the Hunterston reactors this weekend for an initial six-month period, before asking to extend its lifespan for a final six-month cycle. It would begin the process of dismantling the nuclear power plant no later than the first week of 2022, EDF Energy said.
Hunterston, located near Largs in North Ayrshire on the west coast of Scotland, began generating electricity in 1976 but has been offline since 2018 after inspectors discovered 350 microscopic cracks in the graphite core of the reactor.
The Office of Nuclear Regulation said last week that Hunterston’s Reactor 3 would be allowed to restart as planned, after a two-year investigation to ensure the plant could operate safely. But it will only be allowed to generate electricity for about six months.
In October of last year, the Ferret, an investigative website, reported that at least 58 fragments and debris had fallen from the graphite blocks as the cracks deteriorated. He cited the Bureau of Nuclear Regulation as saying it created “significant uncertainty” about the risks of debris clogging the reactor cooling channels and melting the fuel cladding.
In a letter to the local community this month, EDF Energy said it has invested more than £ 200million to determine whether the graphite reactor will remain safe in worst-case scenarios, including a 10,000-year seismic event, which is much bigger than the UK has ever recorded.
“We remain confident that we will be able to shut down the reactor in all of these scenarios,” the company said.
The two Hunterston reactors, designed to produce up to 1,000 MW of electricity, were due to return to service on August 30 and September 17, respectively. But an industry source said only one reactor is due to restart and both will be shut down for good next year.
Simone Rossi, managing director of EDF in the UK, said the decision to prematurely shut down the nuclear power plant “underscores the urgent need to invest in new, low-carbon nuclear power to help Britain achieve net zero and ensure the future of its nuclear industry, its supply chain and workers. ”
EDF Energy also operates Scotland’s second nuclear power plant, Torness, on the east coast south of Edinburgh. Operating since 1988, its two reactors are fully operational and can produce up to 1.2 GW of electricity.
Gary Smith, regional secretary for GMB Scotland, said the job losses due to the closure “would pose huge long-term challenges for what is a fairly disadvantaged part of Scotland. The Scottish government now has a huge problem with its energy policy: more imported gas will be burned to keep the lights on. Renewable energies alone will not suffice. ”
The Scottish National Party Government in Edinburgh has an anti-nuclear policy but has supported efforts to keep Hunterston and Torness in production while phasing out coal-fired power plants and developing renewable sources in Scotland.
In 2016, Scotland’s two nuclear power plants produced 43% of its electricity. In 2018, the year Hunterston went offline after the reactor cracks were discovered, it dropped to 28%.
Across the UK, eight nuclear power plants are operational, which generate a steady supply of electricity about two-thirds of the time, with interruptions for planned maintenance of their reactors.
In total, they supplied 18.7% of the UK’s electricity in 2018, up from just over 20% the year before.
Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “In terms of energy security, there is clearly no problem. Its reactors are not working and the lights have not gone out. What is more urgent now is to develop renewables and energy efficiency, to ensure that the void left by Hunterston is filled with zero carbon electricity or energy savings.