Shutting down a nuclear power station adds pressure on Britain’s electricity supply

One of Britain’s six remaining nuclear power stations is set to close next week, adding to tensions over electricity supplies amid Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Hinkley Point B, near Bridgwater in Somerset, will stop generating at 10am on Monday morning, 46 years after it first sent electricity to the grid.

The 1.1 gigawatt plant, owned and operated by EDF, was capable of producing enough power for around 1.7 million homes a year, but is closing due to age, with hairline cracks appearing in its bricks of graphite.

Its closure has been long planned, but comes at a time of growing energy security concerns, with Russia limiting gas flows to Europe.

EDF’s nuclear fleet in France is also producing far less than normal, with half of its reactors out of service due to maintenance and corrosion issues, meaning it is less able to export energy. electricity to its neighbours, including Great Britain, as usual.

Worst-case modeling in Whitehall has shown that up to six million British homes could face blackouts if Russia continues to throttle supply to Europe.

National Grid last week said it expected to be able to keep the lights on with plenty of buffer reserves, but that assumes it will be able to draw heavily on mainland power supplies.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, has asked coal-fired power stations to stay open longer than planned to provide relief supplies this winter.

In May, colleagues suggested he was looking into whether Hinkley Point B could also do this. However, EDF said it was then too late to try to keep it open for the winter, given the detailed safety record required.

Nuclear power provides around 18 per cent of Britain’s electricity during the year, but this is set to drop as all but one of the aging fleet shut down this decade, raising new concerns about to long-term energy security.

Comments are closed.