Hinkley Point B enters retirement

01 August 2022

EDF Energy announced the Hinkley Point B 1 reactor has been permanently shut down bringing an end to electricity generation at the Hinkley Point B plant in Somerset, England, after 46 years of operation. The Hinkley Point B 2 reactor was shut down on 6 July.

Hinkley Point B (Image: EDF Energy)

The Hinkley Point B plant - comprising two Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors (AGRs) - was first synchronised to the UK electricity grid in February 1976. The plant has since generated more than 311 terawatt-hours of electricity.

"Today it ends its run as the most productive nuclear power station the country has ever had," EDF Energy said.

Over the coming weeks and months, teams at Hinkley Point B will undertake major maintenance and improvement projects across the plant to prepare it for the next stage of its life, defueling.

This process, expected to last around three to four years, involves removing the remaining nuclear fuel from the reactors and transporting it to Sellafield for storage. Once that work is complete, EDF will hand the station to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority for the next step of its life, decommissioning.

"This is a day of mixed emotions for all of us," said Hinkley Point B Station Director Mike Davies. "We are justifiably proud of everything this station and its workforce have given to Somerset, and indeed the country, over decades of operations. The huge amount of electricity we've produced could have met the needs of every home in the South West for 33 years.

"There is much to be proud of. This tiny corner of Somerset has produced huge amounts of zero-carbon electricity, supported and enriched our community and helped sustain the South West nuclear sector by providing thousands of well-paid, high-skilled jobs to our community."

According to EDF Energy, the plant employs around 500 staff and 250 contractors and contributes around GBP40 million (USD49 million) annually to the Somerset economy.

Hinkley Point B is one of the UK's seven AGR plants, which have provided around 20% of the country's power supply over the last four decades. In 2012, the estimated end of Hinkley Point B's generation was extended to 2023, with a +/- 2 years proviso.

In November 2020, EDF announced it would move the Hinkley Point B plant into the defuelling phase no later than 15 July 2022.

The two reactors at Hinkley Point B were taken offline on 21 February and 8 June 2020, respectively, for a series of planned inspections of the graphite core. In March 2021, EDF Energy was given permission to restart the plant. At that time, it said it planned to run the reactors for six months, "pause" for further inspections and, subject to regulatory approval, generate power for a second six-month period.

All seven of the UK's AGR plants - which comprise Torness and Hunterston B in Scotland, Dungeness B in Kent, Hartlepool in Teesside, Heysham 1 and 2 in Lancashire and Hinkley Point B in Somerset - are scheduled to be shut down by 2028.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News