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24 September 2014

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Engineers at Hinkley Point
Engineers at Hinkley Point in 1965

Hinkley A: 1965

The nuclear power industry has come a long way since the 50s and 60s when our understanding of the issues was less developed than today. Tom Salmon reports from Hinkley A as the station generates electricity for the first time.

In 1965, it seemed that nuclear power was here to stay and very much part of the brave new world (although watching Tom Salmon's report for Points West you cannot help but notice some unease as he stands in front of the reactors, delivering his piece to camera!).

With power stations in Berkeley and Oldbury in Gloucestershire, and Hinkley Point in Somerset, the West Country certainly has had its fair share of nuclear reactors.

Tom Salmon reporting

Four are still generating electricity, while some of the region's older power stations have been decommissioned.

For a time there were two nuclear power stations at Hinkley Point - Hinkley A, the original Magnox reactor constructed in the 1960s and featured in Tom Salmon's report, has since been decommissioned - and Hinkley B, which will continue to generate electricity until it closes in 2011.

Oldbury Nuclear Power Station was established in 1968 and will close in 2008. Further along the Severn Estuary at Berkeley, the nuclear reactor opened in 1962 and was decommissioned in 1989.

Construction of Hinkley A started in 1957 and the power station began generating electricity for the National Grid in 1965, and at its height employed 2600 people.

In May 2000, the reactor was shut down and the process of decommissioning the 35-year-old power station began.

In its lifetime the station generated enough electricity to supply the whole of the UK for a year! 

By 2023, there will be just one remaining nuclear power station operating in the UK – that is unless the government goes ahead with its proposal to build new reactors to meet the country's growing demands for energy, although the issues concerning nuclear power continue to cause controversy.

According to Bridgwater MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger, whose constituency includes Hinkley Point, dismantling the Hinkley A will take a century, and the buildings will remain visible throughout that time.

Planning permission for a third station at Hinkley Point was granted in 1990, but the government chose not to proceed, and the permission subsequently lapsed. But some in the industry are adamant that Hinkley will be a site for one of the next generation of nuclear reactors.

Ian Fells, fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering told BBC News in the summer of 2005: "I would think Hinkley is high on the list of new nuclear power stations. 

"[It] has already gone through the planning process and that could be revived," he added.

However, according to environmental campaigners, the continuing development of nuclear power is a risk not worth taking.

Spokesman for the Somerset-based campaign group Stop Hinkley, Jim Duffy told the BBC that people were more aware of the risks associated with nuclear power than they were when stations like Hinkley A were built.

"People are very sophisticated in a way which they weren't in the 1950s," Mr Duffy said.

Hinkley's Station Superintendent, Mr Prior

"And they also tend to see ways of [opposition] which weren't there in the 1950s and 1960s."

Mr Duffy's supposition is perhaps reinforced when you view Points West's report from Hinkley.

Although factual in its approach, questions about safety remain unasked, and Tom Salmon seems quite reassured by the answers given by the then Station Superintendent, Mr Prior.

While our understanding of the nuclear power industry has become more sophisticated since 1965, it would appear that so too has our style of journalism.

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last updated: 08/12/05
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Alice James
I don't think nuclear energy is a safe and reliable resource. I understand that many countries rely on nuclear energy but i don't think Britain should follow suit. It's very dangerous and not worth the risk! Already we've spent billiones of pounds researching nuclear energy and we are still left with no outcome Let's stop wasting money and reduce our carbon footprint by using wind energy. It's in plentiful supply, and it's free. That's exactly what we need in thic economic downturn!!!

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