Published: December 5, 2012
EDF's decision to extend the life of Hinkley B 'raises safety concerns'

EDF Energy's decision to extend the life of its Hinkley B reactor, near Burnham-On-Sea, by seven years has been condemned by anti-nuclear campaigners this week.

Hinkley Point B is now set to remain operational until 2023 instead of ceasing power generation in 2016 as first planned.

Theo Simon from the Stop Hinkley campaign group said after Tuesday's announcement: "The decision to prop up the aging and cracked reactor at Hinkley B well past its sell-by date is potentially very hazardous for all of us."

"EDF and Centrica may want to squeeze every last drop of profit out of it, but the potential for a nuclear mishap at Hinkley B increases exponentially with age. We should remember that the oldest of the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi had been given a 10 year life-extension by government regulators just weeks before the tsunami caused cracked diesel generators to fail, leading to a collapse of the cooling system."

However, an EDF spokesman rejected the concerns, telling "Hinkley Point B always operates in a safe state and if there are ever any doubts the regulator has the powers to shut it down. The plant will be managed in accordance with the conditions of the Site Licence to the satisfaction of ourselves and the independent Nuclear Regulator. Indeed, we are implementing a number of safety enhancements to the plant to ensure safety is maintained to the end of life."

"The safety of our plants is kept under constant review. We are required to satisfy the independent UK Regulator that the plants are safe to re-start from their periodic outages every three years, irrespective of lifetime extension plans."

EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz added: "This decision will bring significant benefits to the local community in terms of jobs and additional economic activity. We have committed to investing a further £300m a year in the eight-strong nuclear fleet. Our nuclear generation business provides work for more than 300 companies in the supply chain and around 90 per cent of our total £650m annual spend in the supply chain goes to British companies."

The B station employs around 535 full time staff, including 44 apprentices, as well as 220 full time staff from contract partners. The wage bill alone is an estimated £40m a year which goes into the local economy.

Meanwhile, a new visitor centre, located in Bridgwater's Angel Place shopping centre, was also officially opened on Tuesday by Vincent de Rivaz. As well as offering guided tours of the Hinkley Point B station, the new centre aims to catch people’s imaginations and provide an introduction to the nuclear industry by using hands-on displays and interactive aides. There are also classroom facilities for local school students to learn more about nuclear power.


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