EDF has made the decision to move Dungeness B nuclear power station into the defuelling stage, effectively decommissioning the plant earlier than previously planned.
The power station on the Kent coast has been undergoing a multi-million pound maintenance programme since 2018, which is when EDF found a range of unique, significant and ongoing technical challenges that were not present at the other six AGR power stations.
The firm says that it has managed to overcome many of these issues, but new analysis highlighted some additional station-specific risks within some key components, including parts within the fuel assemblies.
As a result, Dungeness B will no longer be restarted as initially planned. That means it’s now moving to the defuelling stage, despite an extended decommissioning date that was set for 2028.
Despite missing the extended date, EDF notes that the power station ran for 10 years longer than its original design life, and in line with the expectations it had when it acquired the station in 2009.
Since it came online in 1983, Dungeness B has generated enough low carbon energy to meet the needs of every home in Kent for more than 50 years. The station has also helped the UK avoid the emission of almost 50m tonnes of carbon dioxide and contributed more than £1bn into the Kent economy.
However, some critics have said that nuclear power stations are not an ideal solution for reducing carbon emissions. That’s largely due to their waste problem, which was detailed by our columnist in a Gossage article.
Despite that, Dungeness B was the first of a new wave of UK nuclear power stations and has a design not copied anywhere else in the UK fleet. In 2016, Dungeness had its best ever year, generating enough energy to meet the needs of some 2 million homes.
John Benn, Station Director at Dungeness B, commented, “This power station has been a cornerstone of life in Kent for decades. It is a very special place and the team has a real sense of family – we are part of the community.
“EDF has had to make a hard decision – but it is the right one. It gives our teams, our community and our business a clear understanding of the future.
“I’m enormously proud of everything the team at Dungeness has achieved. Our low-carbon electricity has helped Britain over the past four decades and we have provided this part of Kent with vital jobs for generations. This marks the beginning of the next chapter in this station’s story. We will now plan the defuelling operations, a job we expect will take several years, and one that provides ongoing opportunities for our staff and their specialist skills.”
Defuelling is the first stage of decommissioning a nuclear power station and a process which involves continued use of EDF’s uniquely experienced teams, and specialist supply chain companies, preserving an important source of jobs in Kent and the surrounding area.