Oldbury 1 cleared for extended operation

11 March 2009

The UK nuclear regulator has approved the restart of unit 1 of the Oldbury nuclear power plant, which has been off line for some two-and-a-half years for inspections.

Oldbury 1 (Magnox North)
Oldbury (Image: Magnox North)

The twin-unit plant at Oldbury, Gloucestershire, is the UK's oldest operating nuclear power station. Construction of the plant started in 1961. Unit 1 began operating in 1967, while unit 2 started up in 1968. Both 217 MWe Magnox reactor at Oldbury were due to shut down by the end 2008.
However, in December 2008, Oldbury's owner, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), announced that the plant would continue operating for around another two years. It said that unit 2 would continue operating into 2009, while unit 1 remained offline awaiting approval by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) to restart.


Earlier in 2008, the NDA appealed to the NII to extend the life of Oldbury as part of plans to raise more money from power generation to put towards its decommissioning duties. The NDA said in September that changing economic circumstances and rising electricity prices made it increasingly feasible that life extensions would become economic considering the investment in safety upgrades that will be needed.
Joe Lamonby, site director for operator Magnox North, said that "having previously secured the future operation of reactor 2 in 2008, we are very pleased that our regulators, the NII, have granted us permission to restart reactor 1." The total outage for Oldbury 1 was some two-and-a-half-years, but it is now likely to operate through 2009 and 2010, taking account of fuel availability and reprocessing schedules at Sellafield.


The NDA noted that the continued operation of Oldbury 1 would generate income of some £1 million ($1.4 million) per week, "dependent on performance and electricity prices over the period." 

Lamonby said: "Working with our customer, the NDA, a considerable amount of work has already been completed on site to ensure the reactor is ready to restart. This includes a successful readiness review and work on the reactor and supporting equipment, as well as extensive sampling, testing and channel viewing of the graphite core."


Detailed camera inspections of about a third of the unit's 3308 fuel channels covering some 15,000 graphite bricks were conducted during the reactor's inspection outage.