Australian news, and some related international items

Old nuclear grinding to a halt

nuClear news, No 1333    5 June 21 In February it was reported that Centrica had suspended the sale of its nuclear business. Centrica owns a 20% interest in the UK’s 8.25 GW of operational nuclear power generation fleet. In 2018 it announced it was looking for a buyer for the stake. The Company continues to look at options, but the divestment process has now been paused mainly because of the graphite cracking issue at Hunterston and Hinkley and pipe corrosion at Dungeness. 

The company’s nuclear output for 2020 was down 10% year on year to 9.134 TWh, while the achieved price was up 4% to £51.30/MWh. Centrica’s nuclear segment made an operating loss of £17 million, down from a £17 million operating profit in 2019. A £525 million impairment charge on power assets included £481 million relating to nuclear, “largely as a result of a reduction in price forecasts and availability issues at the Hunterston B, Dungeness B and Hinkley Point B power stations.” (1)



 EDF Energy is reported to be exploring a range of scenarios for Dungeness B, including bringing forward its decommissioning date of 2028. The Company may decide to start defuelling the reactors seven years early unless a number of “significant and ongoing technical challenges” are overcome. 

On 27 August 2018 Dungeness B shut down Reactor 22 for its planned statutory outage. On 23 September 2018 Reactor 21 was also shut down for the planned double reactor outage. Both reactors have been shut since while a multi-million-pound maintenance programme was carried out. This work was due to be completed last year but that timeline changed to August 2021 following a series of delays.

  Now EDF say the ongoing challenges and risks “make the future both difficult and uncertain”. As a result, the energy company is now exploring a range of options – including shutting the station down later this year, seven years ahead of schedule. A statement from EDF reads:

 “Dungeness B power station last generated electricity in September 2018 and is currently forecast to return to service in August 2021. The station has a number of unique, significant and ongoing technical challenges that continue to make the future both difficult and uncertain. Many of these issues can be explained by the fact that Dungeness was designed in the 1960s as a prototype and suffered from very challenging construction and commissioning delays. We expect to have the technical information required to make a decision in the next few months, as it is important we bring clarity to the more than 800 people that work at the station, and who support it from other locations, as well as to government and all those with a stake in the station’s future.”   

 EDF Energy said it has spent more than £100 million on the plant during its current outage. (2) 
EDF’s latest announcement was that Reactor 21 might restart on June 6, 2022 instead of Aug. 2 this year and Reactor 22 reactor might restart on May 27, 2022 instead of July 23 this year. (3)   Dungeness B was the first AGR to be ordered in 1965. It was expected to begin operation in 1970/1, but didn’t produce commercial electricity until 1989. It is thought to have exceeded its budget by 400%. (4)


In April the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) gave EDF permission for reactors 3 and 4 at the Hunterston to return to service for a limited period of operation after scrutiny of EDF’s safety case. Operation is permitted for up to a total of 16.7 terawatt days for reactor 3 and 16.52 terawatt days for reactor 4 – approximately six month’s of operation for each. This will be the final period of operation before the reactors are shut-down and the spent fuel removed. (5) 

Reactor 3 has already re-started but Reactor 4 is not expected to be back on-line until 9th June. The end date for Hunterston B will be 7 January 2022 at the latest.  

Hinkley Point B 

On 17th March Hinkley Point B’s two reactors were granted permission by ONR to restart. Reactor 4 and Reactor 3 were taken offline on 21 February and 8 June 2020, respectively, for a series of planned inspections of the graphite core. The company plans to run Hinkley’s two reactors for six months, pause for further inspections and, subject to ONR approval, generate power for a second six-month period. Last November EDF announced that Hinkley Point B would operate no later than July 2022 before moving into the defuelling phase. EDF has spent £3 million over the past year upgrading the plant while detailed assessments have been completed on the graphite in the nuclear reactors. (6)  

  Sizewell B

 EDF Energy extended the outage at Sizewell B by three months to carry out ‘additional work’. The reactor went offline for planned refuelling and maintenance work on April 16, initially scheduled to end on May 29. This has been updated to 30th August following additional work required on some components identified during the shutdown. (7) This is because some steel components are wearing out more quickly than expected, forcing EDF to carry out lengthy unscheduled repairs. (8)  

  Plant Life Extensions 

A look at the age structure of existing nuclear power plants shows the importance of analysing risks of life-time extension and long-term operation. Some of the world’s oldest plants are located in Europe. Of the 141 reactors in Europe, only one reactor came into operation in the last decade, and more than 80 percent of the reactors have been running for more than 30 years. Nuclear power plants were originally designed to operate for 30 to 40 years. Thus, the operating life-time of many plants are approaching this limit, or has already exceeded it. The ageing of nuclear power plants leads to a significantly increased risk of severe accidents and radioactive releases. 

A new study has analysed the risks of life-time extensions of ageing nuclear power plants. At present, life-time extensions in Europe do not have to be comprehensively relicensed according   

  to the state of the art in science and technology. Time limited licenses can be extended by decision of the competent authorities. However, such decisions do not meet the requirements of Nuclear Power Plant licensing procedures in regard to public participation. More often than not environmental impact assessments with public participation are not carried out. However, the situation has changed with the ruling of the European Court of Justice of 29th of July 2019 on the life-time extension of the Doel NPP (Belgium) and the new guidance under the ESPOO Convention. Accordingly, environmental impact assessments with transboundary public participation are now required for life-time extensions.

However, there are still no binding assessment standards for life-time extensions. It is still up to each regulatory authority to decide what and how to assess. In particular, the authorities are not obliged to carry out a comprehensive licensing procedure in which all safety issues are comprehensively examined according to the current state of knowledge. (9)

June 5, 2021 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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