EDF plans new investment and extensions for UK nuclear fleet

09 January 2024

EDF Energy has announced it will invest a further GBP1.3 billion (USD1.7 billion) in the UK's five operating nuclear power plants over the next two years and plans to further extend the lives of the four operating Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) plants.

The Hartlepool AGR plant (Image: EDF Energy)

EDF manages the UK's eight nuclear power plant sites, five that are operating (Sizewell B, Torness, Heysham 2, Heysham 1 and Hartlepool) and three that have entered decommissioning (Hunterston B, Hinkley Point B and Dungeness B). It took over the sites when it acquired British Energy in 2009. The company is also constructing the new Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset, and there are advanced plans for a replica at Sizewell C in Suffolk.

EDF has announced it plans to invest a further GBP1.3 billion in the five operating plants over 2024-26, taking the total invested in the fleet to nearly GBP9 billion since 2009.

The company said the additional investment "will help sustain output at current levels, boost energy security and cut carbon emissions".

The UK's nuclear output in 2023 was 37.3 TWh, 15% lower than 2022 due to reactor closures and statutory outages, EDF said, noting that it plans to maintain output around this level until at least 2026.

"Without EDF's investment and expertise, Sizewell B power station would be the only operational nuclear power station in the UK today and nuclear would provide just 3% of the UK's power consumption rather than the 13% it does account for," the company said. "This would have meant even more reliance on gas, higher energy prices for customers and more carbon in the atmosphere."

The company said the "improved outlook" has been driven by life extensions announced for Heysham 1 and Hartlepool in March 2023. At that time, it said it wanted to keep the units operating until about March 2026, two years longer than previously planned.

"These AGR lifetimes will be reviewed again by the end of 2024 and the ambition is to generate beyond these current forecasts, subject to plant inspections and regulatory approvals," EDF said.

"The more positive fleet outlook, and major new build programme, means EDF plans to hire over 1000 people in 2024 across its various UK nuclear businesses," EDF said.

"EDF has built a strong track record of safely operating the UK's existing nuclear fleet, delivering over 35% more clean power than initially forecast," said Mark Hartley, Managing Director of EDF's Nuclear Operations business. "Looking ahead, our aim is to maintain output from the four AGR stations for as long as possible and extend Sizewell B by a further 20 years, out to 2055. Maximising output also helps preserve the critical nuclear skills and capabilities that will be valuable for future nuclear projects."

Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, welcomed EDF's announcement. He said: "EDF's unprecedented investment in our nuclear fleet has helped preserve it as a bedrock of our energy security. Their ambition to extend the four AGR stations further if possible, should be widely welcomed - as it will cut gas imports, cut carbon and relieve winter pressures on our shaky grid. EDF invests by far the most of any company in British low carbon energy, and their stewardship of our nuclear fleet has helped keep the lights on for much longer than was originally envisaged.

"While lifetime extensions will help in the short term, they won't address the medium and long-term issues of a fleet getting close to retirement - what we now need is for the government to get Sizewell C to a Final Investment Decision swiftly, and set out a plan for a new fleet of stations large and small to maintain nuclear’s contribution to our energy security and economic prosperity for the future."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News