The UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) notes EDF’s decision to move Dungeness B nuclear power station in Kent into a defuelling phase with immediate effect. With Hunterston B and Hinkley Point B closing in 2022, it is clear the aging Advanced Gas Reactor fleet is coming to its end much earlier than EDF would have liked, most of it before any new nuclear reactor can help to replace it. (1)
In a statement issued yesterday, EDF comment:
“Since September 2018 the station has been in an extended outage in which EDF has been managing a range of unique, significant and ongoing technical challenges that are not found at the other six AGR power stations. Although many have been overcome, new detailed analysis has further highlighted additional station-specific risks within some key components, including parts within the fuel assemblies.”
EDF had hoped to run the Dungeness B until as late as 2028, but the many issues of corrosion and technical challenges with the reactor has proven too much for it, despite many millions being spent on the project. It has also spent millions on prolonging the operating life of Hunterston B and Hinkley Point B, getting just an extra 12 months of generation from all that work.
Amongst the issues in closing the Dungeness B site seven years earlier than planned could include this recent assessment by Kent County Council, part of an upcoming report by Paul Dorfman, which noted:
“Sea-level rise will substantially alter the site, which is low-lying and less than 70 metres from the current mean high-water mark. Moreover, the report states that with projected changes in sea-level and under combined hazard conditions (where coastal flooding meets high wind), radiation contamination following an accident or incident could significantly impact the South East UK population and further afield. Keeping this in mind, it’s disconcerting to reflect that there’s a very high probability that the nuclear power plant will be subject to very significant near-term annual flood risk.” (2)
NFLA notes that Heysham 1 and Hartlepool nuclear power plants are also due to close in 2024, and it has suggested in a previous report that these reactors, as with Torness, may also close significantly earlier than EDF would like. (3)
EDF and the Nuclear Industry Association have both called on the UK Government to now speed up its practical support for new nuclear. Yet, EDF has just published a new consultation on the Sizewell C reactor, partially given the overwhelming and detailed opposition to its plans at the existing planning inquiry. Bradwell B is mired in local council opposition to it and is vulnerable to the deteriorating relationship between the UK and Chinese Governments. Small modular nuclear reactors are being pushed hard but their biggest proponent, Rolls Royce, just posted a £4.5 billion annual loss due to core problems in other parts of its business.
NFLA also note the comments made by the National Grid on EDF’s Dungeness B decision:
“We have done quite a lot of work to find new ways to operate the grid without needing baseload (such as nuclear). It used to be that you needed these big power stations to keep everything safe and secure and stable, but there are lots of new processes and techniques we can use on wind farms to do this.” (4)
The National Infrastructure Commission has said similar points to the National Grid, and this follows on from many peer-reviewed papers that emphasise that a 100% renewable generation system is eminently possible and practical to develop which NFLA has recently published. (5)
NFLA advocate a key part of a renewable energy revolution is for central government to develop a new relationship of new powers and resources to councils to deliver decentralised energy generation and energy demand management solutions. Its latest report has shown a wide amount of exciting developments that emphasise a move from nuclear and fossil fuels to a renewables, energy storage and energy efficiency alternative. (6) EDF’s aging nuclear reactors should be closed down as soon as possible, and let’s get on with pursuing safer, radioactive waste free, more realisable and cheaper nuclear free energy alternatives instead.
NFLA Steering Committee Chair Councillor David Blackburn said:
“EDF’s decision to move to defuelling the Dungeness B reactor follows closely on from the parallel decisions to do likewise at Hunterston B and Hinkley Point B. But we are not seeing any sense of dramatic alarm or panic from the National Grid. That is due to the remarkable rise of renewables. If this can be effectively joined by central government support and local government leadership to energy efficiency and energy storage projects, then we have the potential complete solution to deliver net zero policies much sooner than later. Nuclear’s time should now be over, and this is another example of its inexorable decline.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 07771 930196.
Notes to Editors:
(1) EDF statement, 7th June 2021
(2) Information provided to the NFLA by Dr Paul Dorfman for a new report on climate impact and the UK nuclear industry being published shortly.
(3) NFLA Policy Briefing 205, 5th August 2020
(4) Daily Telegraph, 7th June 2021
(5) NFLA Policy Briefing 208, 11th November 2020
(6) NFLA Policy Briefing 215, 17th May 2021