EDF’s plans to prolong life of UK nuclear power stations put energy policy in doubt

22/05/2012 00:37

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The electricity giant EDF, the UK’s main nuclear operator, is negotiating with the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) the extension of the operational lifetime of their existing eight nuclear power reactors.

According to EDF, the reactors have to start decommissioning in 2016, with seven of the eight halting generation by 2023. The plan was disclosed on the eve of the Government’s proposals to overhaul the energy industry and to drive massive investment in low carbon power and filling the looming energy gap. The two organizations are also discussing other improvements to nuclear plants, including monitoring systems and dealing with the reactors' ageing. EDF is considering now putting UK’s ageing reactors through another 10-year safety test in co-operation with the Office of Nuclear Regulation. This controversial move came just few weeks ago after ministers declared that UK needs to focus on building new nuclear and gas power, as well as subsidizing renewable energy technologies and carbon capture and storage amid many nuclear and coal ageing power plants closures. There are 19 nuclear plants operating in the UK, according to data from the World Nuclear Association. EDF operates nuclear reactors at Dungeness in Kent, Hartlepool in the North East, Sizewell in Suffolk, Hinkley Point in Somerset, two at Heysham in Lancashire and two in Scotland, at Torness, near Dunbar in East Lothian and Hunterston, near Largs in Ayreshire. Only Sizewell power station is currently due to continue its operation after 2023. Plans to hold the nuclear plants operational will trigger criticism of the government's energy policy, which is pledging for expensive new nuclear reactors to meet short- to medium-term demand, while renewable energy such as wind, solar and tidal power are improved so they can be deployed on a mass scale.

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