EDF decides to keep two British nuclear plants running

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Inside the reactor hall at the Heysham 1 nuclear power facility. EDF said it would keep the plant running for another two years as part of a pursuit of a net-zero economy. Photo courtesy of EDF

March 9 (UPI) — EDF Energy said Thursday it would keep two nuclear power stations in Britain running for another two years, as part of a shift in positions on nuclear power.

EDF, part of a French energy group, controls the Heysham 1 and Hartlepool nuclear facilities, which provide enough power to meet around 5% of national energy demand with a combined capacity of 2.3 gigawatts.

“Heysham 1 and Hartlepool are forecast to generate zero-carbon electricity for two years longer, supporting energy security, reducing demand for imported gas and lowering carbon emissions,” the company said.

The facilities were slated for closure next year, but the decision was made to continue their lifespan following a “rigorous review” from EDF’s team.

Britain is among the world leaders in offshore wind, but the region in general is changing its stance on nuclear energy after shying away from the resource after the meltdown at the Fukushima plant in Japan in 2011.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak left nuclear power out of budget discussions last year, tacitly supporting plans from former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said he wanted to see eight new nuclear facilities built within the next eight years.

A Japanese nuclear power panel, meanwhile, agreed late last year to build new reactor units to replace decommissioned ones, the first since the disastrous earthquake and tsunami that hampered the Fukushima plant in 2011.

Nuclear power moved back in vogue largely in response to the reconfiguration of the global energy sector that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Economies of scale are looking for alternatives to the Russian oil and natural gas sidelined as a result of Western-backed sanctions.

EDF said the new lifespan for the nuclear facilities means less natural gas is needed in the regional economy. It also avoids emissions equivalent to removing 5 million cars from service for a year.

Matt Sykes, the managing director of EDF’s generation business, said the decision supports the pursuit of a net-zero economy.

“As well as helping the U.K. reduce its use of imported gas, it is also great news for the 2,000 skilled people whose jobs are supported by these sites and will help preserve valuable technical and operational skills that will be critical as the U.K. seeks to re-build its nuclear capability,” he added.

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