End of an era for Somerset as Hinkley Point B shuts down

Saturday 6th August 2022 6:00 am
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A DISCHARGE of steam at 10am on Monday (August 1) visually signalled the switching-off of Hinkley Point B nuclear power station after 46 years.

The release of the steam, which was no longer needed to drive the turbine to generate electricity, could be seen for miles around the site.

Hinkley B first produced power when Abba’s Mamma Mia was at the top of the charts in 1976.

This week, it ended its run as the most productive nuclear power station the country has ever had when its second reactor was shutdown, a month after its other reactor stopped generating electricity.

The plant was originally expected to run for 25 years, but through the ingenuity of its engineers it was able to operate successfully for a further 21 years.

Station director Mike Davies said: “This is a day of mixed emotions for all of us.

“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 have 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.

“Now our attention turns to the job of de-fueling the power station.”

During the next few months teams at Hinkley Point B will undertake major maintenance and improvement projects across the plant to prepare for the de-fueling stage of its life.

The de-fueling, expected to last about three to four years, will involve removing the remaining nuclear fuel from the reactors and transporting it to Sellafield, in Cumbria, for storage.

Once that work is complete, EDF will hand over the station to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority for the next step of its life, decommissioning.

Mr Davies said: “When a power station is generating it looks, sounds, and smells a certain way.

“It is a familiar experience that most people who work here or who are familiar with our site know and, to some degree, love.

“But all that changed as our turbines slowed and stopped for the final time.

“Of course, we have had that experience when we have been on outages – but we have always known they would be back on again and we would be generating.

“Now, we have a new job and a huge amount of interesting work to do.

“I am excited for Somerset that Hinkley Point C is taking shape on our horizon, but I also know that thanks to this station, and everything it has achieved, our colleagues have got very big boots to fill.”

Nuclear Industry Association chief executive Tom Greatrex said: “Hinkley Point B is the most productive clean power asset in British history.

“No other station has saved more CO2 emissions and made a bigger contribution to fighting climate change.

“It has been a bastion of energy security for over four-and-a-half decades and its retirement is a stark reminder that we urgently need to replace our existing capacity.

“The dedicated staff who have helped keep homes in the South West warm and light for 46 years deserve our gratitude.

“As the current energy crisis demonstrates, without nuclear the cost of the electricity we rely on is higher and leaves us reliant on burning imported fossil fuels. That is why we need new nuclear.”

The station employs about 500 staff and 250 contractors and contributes about £40 million a year to the Somerset economy.

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