Life extension for UK nuclear plant

10 June 2009

Wylfa, one of the UK's oldest nuclear power plants, has been given the go-ahead for operation beyond its planned closure date. The nine-month extension is being hailed as a first step towards an even longer operating life.

Wylfa (BNG)
Wylfa (Image: BNG)
The UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) announced that the plant, on the North Wales island of Anglesey, had been granted approval to continue generating electricity for at least another nine months past its planned closure date of March 2010, meaning it would be able to operate until at least December of that year. According to the NDA, the UK government's Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) approved the licence extension earlier this month.
Wylfa is one of two remaining Magnox-type nuclear power stations still operating in the UK. Its two 490 MWe reactors started up in 1971 and 1972 respectively, and according to the NDA the initial extension period provides the potential for the generation of an additional 3 TWh of electricity. The site is owned by the NDA, a public body with the strategic responsibility for decommissioning the UK's nuclear legacy sites. It is operated by Magnox North Limited, itself owned by US-based international nuclear services company EnergySolutions.
The additional income generated during the extension will be used in support of the civil nuclear clean-up and decommissioning programme. Richard Waite, NDA's acting Chief Executive, described Wylfa's continued generation as good news, ensuring further benefits from one of NDA's assets.
More to come?
Wylfa's site director, Greg Evans, said that the decision was great news for Wylfa and the local community - with a workforce of over 650 people the plant is a major employer on the island. He also suggested that the nine-month extension might only be the start of an even longer operating life. "As fuel supply is not a problem, there is an excellent prospect that we could continue safely generating electricity at Wylfa beyond 2010, and we will be actively exploring this possibility on behalf of the NDA," he said.
Three years ago, in June 2006, the NDA released a paper examining issues arising from the possible extended operation of Wylfa by 2 and 4 years, and concluded that at that time it saw "no realistic case for extending the productive life of Wylfa beyond 2010."
The UK's other operating Magnox plant, Oldbury, recently returned to full power after five years of operating at reduced output, having in the interim received a two-year extension to its operating licence. Under its current licence it too is expected to close by the end of 2010.
Wylfa and Oldbury are also potential sites for UK nuclear new build. A parcel of 178 hectares of land alongside the Wylfa site owned by the NDA and EdF, and 119 hectares of NDA-owned land at Oldbury, was recently sold at auction to a consortium of EOn and RWE npower.