EDF Energy, which is 85 percent owned by France, says it is too late to stop the shutdown of the Hinkley Point B nuclear power station in Somerset despite suggestions the British government wanted to keep it going for a few more years.
The site is next door to the £25 billion Hinkley Point C station which is being built by EDF Energy and China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) and is due to come into operation in 2027, supplying seven percent of Britain’s energy needs.
On Monday the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Chris Philp told Times Radio that Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng was considering if Hinkley Point B might “continue beyond its planned end” if it complies with its “safety certification.”
Philp said this could be a “sensible precautionary measure” in view of the disruption which has been caused to the international gas market by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Previously EDF announced Hinkley Point B—which was built in the late 1960s and has been generating energy since 1976—would be decommissioned from November 2020 and would enter the defueling phase by the end of July 2022.
The Financial Times reported this week that EDF said although it was “technically feasible” to extend operations at Hinkley Point B for up to six months, the time needed to do this had “now run out.”
An EDF spokesman said: “It has reliably produced zero carbon electricity for over 46 years, more than 15 years longer than envisaged when built, and will complete its generating phase as the most productive nuclear site the UK has ever had.”
Hinkley Point B, an advanced gas-cooled reactor, has produced more than 300 terawatt-hours of power in its lifetime, enough to keep the electricity on in every home in Britain for three years.
Last month Kwarteng wrote to the owners of Britain’s last remaining coal-fired power stations to ask them to stay open a bit longer to cope with a looming energy crisis in the 2022–2023 winter.
Energy bills have risen enormously in Britain as gas prices spike as a result of a number of factors, including the sanctions on Russia.
A government spokesman said: “Any extensions to operational dates for the UK’s nuclear power stations are a matter for the operator of the stations, EDF, and the regulator the Office for Nuclear Regulation, which are based on safety considerations. The government has no direct involvement in this process and has not made any requests of this kind.”
PA Media contributed to this report