EDF – the French state-owned nuclear utility which owns and operates eight British nuclear power stations – has signed a major new maintenance deal with Doosan Babcock to extend the generating lives of the reactors.
With the exception of Sizewell-B, all seven UK atomic power stations – including Torness, near Edinburgh, and Hunterson-B in Ayrshire – are due to close by 2023, which is also the year EDF plans to bring the new Hinkley Point C reactor online.
While the decision to extend the life of reactors rests with EDF’s board, their operation is subject to safety reviews by the U.K. Office for Nuclear Regulation.
The agreement is valued at about £70 million pounds a year, said Cameron Gilmour, Nuclear Service Director at Doosan Babcock in Renfrew, who added: “While there’s no fixed duration, the contract may last as long as 20 years, he said. That would value the deal at as much as £1.4 billion”.
The Doosan Babcock contract – which will include servicing the plants, inspecting components such as pipes and installing new parts when needed in all of EDF’s Advanced Gas Cooled Reactors – will also safeguard up to 1,000 jobs in the UK.
The contract is the clearest sign yet that EDF will run all its reactors longer than initially planned. A commitment to keep British generators running may also be a boon to the UK government, which has been warned by regulators that the UK faces possible blackouts if it doesn’t hasten the replacement of ageing plants.
Gilmour added: “Technically there’s no reason why these plants can’t run for much longer than was originally envisaged – which gives us much longer-term sustainability in the business to train new apprentices and graduates.
UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon, MP – originally from Perthshire and a former business partner of Duncan ‘Dragon’s Den’ Bannatyne – commented:
“This shows that nuclear presents big opportunities for highly skilled jobs, sustainable growth, and the lasting legacy of a UK supply chain. I want to make sure that the U.K. is at the forefront of this growing industry.”
EDF plans to extend the life of its Dungeness station in Kent by 10 years to 2028 and will make a final decision by year-end. In 2012, the utility said it would prolong the lives of Hunterston B and Hinkley B by seven years to 2023.
EDF may also seek extensions for Hartlepool and Heysham 1, which are currently due to operate until 2019, and for Torness and Heysham 2, due to run until 2023, the EDF official said. No official decisions have yet been made, a spokesman said.