Magnox plants could operate to 2012

12 August 2010

The UK's only remaining operating Magnox nuclear power stations, Oldbury and Wylfa, are looking at operating well beyond their current scheduled closure dates.

Magnox North's Oldbury power station (Image: Magnox North)

Oldbury, on the banks of the River Severn in Gloucestershire, is currently scheduled to close down in June 2011, but site manager Joe Lamonby told a recent stakeholder group meeting that it is likely there will still be enough fuel to operate one of the plant's two reactors beyond that. He told stakeholders that there would not be enough fuel to continue running both reactors - Magnox fuel is no longer being manufactured - but spare fuel from one reactor could be put into the other to keep it operating. The units are owned by the UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA).
Plant operator Magnox North confirmed that the company is indeed undertaking early feasibility work looking forward to generation into 2012, but it is likely to be some time before it applies for a licence extension. "Further discussions with our owner, the NDA, are necessary before any significant work is carried out on the proposal, and the agreement of the regulator would be necessary for the implementation of this option," Oldbury's Zoe Young told World Nuclear News.
Oldbury's two 217 MWe reactors had been due to close at the end of 2008 but the NDA requested permission from the regulator, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII), to operate beyond that date, earning revenue to help pay for decommissioning. Lamonby told stakeholders that the reactors are doing "fantastically well" at present, although output will drop as the plant moves towards the end of generation.
Magnox North's other operating station, Wylfa in North Wales, is formally scheduled for closure in December 2010, but like Oldbury, could well operate to 2012 with the NII's consent. The plant is currently in the process of applying for extended operation beyond 2010, Magnox North's Lowri Jones explained to WNN. If the regulator gives it permission to continue, Magnox North is hoping to be able to operate the plant for at least two more years. A decision from the NII is expected in the autumn.
Oldbury and Wylfa are the last of the UK's gas-cooled, graphite-moderated first generation nuclear power reactors. Oldbury has been in operation since 1968. Wylfa's two 490 MWe units were the last Magnoxes to be built, entering service in 1971 and 1972 respectively. Both Oldbury and Wylfa have been earmarked as potential sites for new nuclear power stations by RWE-EOn joint venture Horizon, on land which it purchased from the NDA in 2009. Horizon anticipates having its first new plant, at Wylfa, in operation by 2020.
By Claire Maden
for World Nuclear News