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EDF ends electricity generation at Hunterston B power station

11 January 2022

EDF announced on January 7 that electricity generation at the Hunterston B power station in North Ayrshire, UK had ended after 46 years. Reactor 4 was shutdown at midday on January 7 by Station Director, Paul Forrest, EDF said in its statement.

Worker in Charge Hall at Hunterston B – Image: EDF
Worker in Charge Hall at Hunterston B – Image: EDF

In August 2020, EDF first made the announcement that it was ending generation at Hunterston B. It originally aimed to close the plant by 7 January 2021 at the latest, two years earlier than had been planned, however this date was later revised to 2022.

The nuclear power station was closed in 2018 when 350 cracks were found in the graphite bricks that make up Reactor 3's core. The number of cracks exceeded the operational limit approved by the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR). This led to a two-year inspection and investment programme to prove that the station could respond safely to a range of earthquake scenarios, including a once-in-10,000-year seismic event. EDF had spent around £200m on this process in the hopes that Hunterston B would continue to be operational until at least 2023.  

The ONR said that it was satisfied that the reactor could operate safely despite the cracks and agreed a new limit of 700 cracks. EDF then announced that it had received approval to start generating low carbon power again from Reactor 3 for six months, however it said in a statement that due to the power station’s age, Hunterston B would move into the defuelling phase no later than January 7, 2022.

Station Director, Paul Forrest, said: “The contribution Hunterston B power station has made to this country cannot be underestimated. As well as providing stable, well paid employment for thousands of people in the North Ayrshire area, it has produced almost 300TWh of zero-carbon electricity, enough to power every home in Scotland for 31 years. It was originally thought Hunterston B would run for 25 years but investment in the plant and the people who work here mean we’ve been able to safely extend that to 46 years.
“This is an incredible achievement and everyone here is proud of what the station has accomplished. We will pause to reflect the end of generation but we are looking forward to the future. We don’t just switch off the power station, close the gates and walk away. It will take time to defuel and decommission the site and we will continue to need skilled people to do this.”
EDF has been consulting with staff about their futures for the past two years. The majority of staff indicated they would like to continue working at Hunterston B. Every member of staff who said they wanted to stay has been successful in securing a role through defueling, EDF said. Some staff have been supported to move to other EDF sites and some have opted to retire.
The station’s Reactor 3 was taken offline in November 2021. Both reactors will now undergo a statutory outage to make sure they are ready for defueling. It is expected that defueling at Hunterston B will take around three years.
Under the terms of a contract agreed with UK Government in June 2021, EDF will carry out defueling at all seven of the UK’s Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) stations before the sites are transferred to the NDA for its subsidiary Magnox to continue with decommissioning.

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