Oldbury 1 to shut down in early 2012

After 44 years of operation, unit 1 of the UK’s Oldbury nuclear power plant will be permanently shut down in February 2012, ten months earlier than expected, Magnox Ltd announced.

The company said that further operation of the 217 MWe Magnox reactor was “no longer economically viable.” The decision to shut down the unit – the only operational reactor at the site – was taken “after careful consideration by operators Magnox and the site owners the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), in conjunction with independent regulators the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).”

Built in the 1960s and among the first generation of UK reactors, both of the gas-cooled, graphite-moderated first generation reactors at Oldbury were originally scheduled to shut down at the end of 2008. However, the NDA requested permission from the regulator to operate beyond that date, earning revenue to help pay for decommissioning. While unit 2 was eventually shut down in June 2011, unit 1 was expected to close at the end of 2012. To date, the site has generated over 130 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity.

Magnox Ltd noted that since their originally planned shut down date of 2008, the two units have generated an additional 7 TWh, worth an estimated £300 million ($478 million) to the British taxpayer. This extra generation, it added, also saved some six million tonnes of carbon from being released into the atmosphere.

Under current plans, the operation to remove the fuel from both units should be completed in 2013. After most of the structures at Oldbury have been removed, the site will enter the ‘care and maintenance’ stage of decommissioning around 2027, after which the reactor is left to cool. Final site clearance activities are scheduled between 2092 and 2101.

The last two remaining Magnox reactors currently in operation in the UK are at Wylfa site. The two 490 MWe units there are scheduled to shut down at the end of 2012.

Horizon Nuclear Power – a 50-50 joint venture between RWE nPower and EOn UK – plans to submit a planning application for a new nuclear power plant at Oldbury around 2014. According to the company, “Given the right market conditions, and subject to a final investment decision, preliminary works could begin in 2016, followed by main construction from 2019.” Horizon is yet to decide which of the two available reactor designs – Areva’s EPR or Westinghouse’s AP1000 – it would like to build.

Courtesy of WNN