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Dungeness B nuclear power station to move into defuelling phase

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Dungeness B nuclear power station will move into the defuelling phase with immediate effect, EDF revealed today.

The site on Romney Marsh has been off-line since September 2018 while a multi-million pound maintenance programme was carried out.

Dungeness B nuclear power station will move into the defuelling stage
Dungeness B nuclear power station will move into the defuelling stage

This work was due to be completed last year but following "a range of unique, significant and ongoing technical challenges" it was delayed several times.

Last month, owner EDF said they were considering starting the procedure to shut the station down later this year

Now, they say new detailed analysis has further highlighted additional station-specific risks within some key components, including parts within the fuel assemblies.

As a result, EDF has taken a decision not to restart the plant but to move it into the defuelling stage.

This is seven years ahead of schedule, as an extended decommissioning date was set for 2028.

Aerial view of Dungeness power station in May 1968
Aerial view of Dungeness power station in May 1968

However, with the final generation of electricity in 2018, it means the plant ran for 10 years longer than its original design life, and in line with expectations when it was acquired by EDF in 2009.

John Benn, station director at Dungeness B said: “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.

Dungeness B power station employs hundreds of people
Dungeness B power station employs hundreds of people

"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."

More than 700 people work at the station.

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.

Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone, Hythe and Romney Marsh
Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone, Hythe and Romney Marsh

MP for the area, Damian Collins said: "This is a decision that we knew would one day come as Dungeness B is already operating beyond it's initially planned operating life.

"The vast majority of jobs at the power station will still be secure for many years, and I will continue to press for new generation nuclear power at Dungeness, through the deployment of small modular reactors.

"I will continue to work for the long term future of the nuclear industry at Dungeness."

Construction began at Dungeness B in 1967. It was to be the first of a new wave of UK nuclear power stations and has a design not copied anywhere else in the UK fleet.

The plant connected to the electricity grid in 1983.

The original design life was 2008 and this was extended following investment in the plant at that time and subsequently.

In 2016 Dungeness had its best ever year, generating enough energy to meet the needs of some two million homes.

Defuelling is the first stage of decommissioning a nuclear power station and a process which involves continued use of EDF’s experienced teams, and specialist supply chain companies.

Neighbouring Dungeness A was decommissioned in 2006.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association said of the news: "Dungeness B was the first of a nuclear fleet that has saved over 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon emissions, the equivalent of all UK emissions from 2018 through 2020, and far more than any other electricity source.

"Despite its difficulties, the plant has been of one of the ten most productive low-carbon assets in UK history. Only other nuclear power stations have done better.

"It’s a testament to the tireless ingenuity and dedication of the hundreds of site workers who have kept the plant operating for close to four decades.

“Its retirement underscores the urgency of investing in new nuclear capacity to hit net zero: in less than three years, more than half of our nuclear fleet will be gone.

"If this base of firm power is not replaced, we will have to rely on gas to stabilise the grid.

"This fossil fuel dependence will cause higher emissions and higher prices and push our climate goals further from our grasp.

"Instead, we can choose to invest in nuclear power alongside renewables to secure a green recovery and a net zero future for the UK."

Read more: All the latest news from Romney Marsh

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