The Dungeness B plant in Kent will close permanently, seven years earlier than expected, after owner EDF deemed it beyond repair.
Dungeness B, one of EDF’s eight nuclear power plants in the UK, has been out of service since September 2018, when inspections revealed corrosion of seismic stresses, pipelines and storage tanks. The corrosion was so severe that the Office of Nuclear Regulatory (ONR) classified it as a Level 2, out of 7, incident on the International Nuclear Events Scale.
The plant was initially due to be put back into service in February 2019, but this date has been postponed several times because EDF has taken up a series of “unique, significant and continuous technical challenges” not present in its other UK plants. Most recently, Dungeness B was due to go live in August.
However, after spending £ 100million on repairs, EDF has seen other issues with the boilers inside the reactors that cannot be replaced.
EDF has now decided to start emptying the plant, going ahead with dismantling initially scheduled for 2028. Dungeness B started producing electricity in 1983.
John Benn, manager of Dungeness B station, said in a statement: “EDF had to make a tough decision, but it’s the right one. This gives our teams, our community and our business a clear understanding of the future. “
The GMB union, which represents the workers at the plant, said it was “stunned” by the speed of the decision-making and asked for assurances that workers’ jobs would be protected. The factory employs around 500 people, and 250 additional subcontractors work on site.
“What we need now is certainty and security for the workforce,” said Gary Carter, GMB country manager.
The emptying is the first step in a complex, multi-year nuclear power plant decommissioning process and will continue to require staff from EDF and supply chain companies, EDF said.
The closure of Dungeness B will mark the end of more than 50 years of nuclear production at the south coast site. The Dungeness A plant opened in 1965 and was decommissioned in 2006. Drainage was completed in 2012 and the turbine room was demolished in 2015, but the site will not enter the commissioning phase. service and maintenance only in 2027, which suggests that work will continue at Dungeness B for decades.
Folkestone and Hythe MP Damian Collins accepted assurances that jobs would be secure at Dungeness B for many years, but urged the region to continue playing a role in nuclear power.
“I will continue to push for next-generation nuclear power at Dungeness, through the deployment of small modular reactors,” he said.
Dungeness was not one of the eight sites planned by the government for future nuclear power plants in 2010, but could be the site of one of the 16 small modular reactors planned by Rolls Royce. The company has urged the government to commit £ 2bn to build the first two or three factories.
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said the closure of Dungeness B would not impact the UK’s energy supply and reiterated the government commitment to “the future of nuclear energy”.
The government “seeks to reach a final decision to invest in at least one nuclear power plant by the end of this legislature, in parallel with the exploitation of new nuclear technologies,” said the spokesperson.
However, few concrete plans have materialized. Of the UK’s nuclear fleet, only Sizewell B will still be online after 2030. A single successor, the £ 23 billion Hinkley Point C, is expected to start generating electricity in 2026. The government is reportedly on the line. not to grant EDF permission to build another, Sizewell C, in Suffolk. However, plans for two other plants failed due to the government’s lack of co-investment in the plan, and a proposed plant in Bradwell could be doomed by security concerns involving developer China General Nuclear (CGN).
The closure of Dungeness B follows EDF’s announcement of the early shutdown of two of its other plants, Hunterston B and Hinkley Point B, in 2021 and 2022, following the discovery of cracks in their graphite reactor cores. Meanwhile, a shutdown at Sizewell B will extend three months longer than originally planned, until August, after the discovery of wear on steel components in the reactor.