Dungeness B nuclear power station given 10-year reprieve

Dungeness B Image copyright EDF ENERGY
Image caption EDF Energy says Dungeness B can continue operating safely well beyond its scheduled 2018 closure date

Dungeness B nuclear power station is to stay open beyond its scheduled closing date of 2018, its owner, EDF, has announced.

The ageing reactor, on the south Kent coast, had been due to decommission in 2018 but will now remain until 2028 as a result of £150m extra investment.

Work on building Dungeness B began in 1965 and it began generating electricity in 1983.

It employs 550 people plus 200 contract staff and six apprentices a year.

The plant had initially been scheduled to close in 2008, but its then operator, British Energy, extended its life by 10 years.

In 2009 the government announced that Dungeness B was not on its list of potential sites for new nuclear reactors, effectively reaffirming its closure date of 2018.

'Significant investment'

But now EDF says its additional investment of £15m a year means the plant can continue operating safely for a further 10 years.

EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said: "The decision to extend the life of Dungeness B is only possible because of the collaboration, innovation and technical expertise of EDF Energy and its long-term partners.

"Customers will benefit from this significant investment through many more years of reliable, low-carbon electricity."

The present government regards nuclear energy as a safe and relatively low-cost way of securing the UK's energy supplies well into the middle of the century and reducing reliance on carbon-based energy.

While environmental campaigners are concerned about the risks associated with nuclear-powered generators, there has been a lot of support in Kent and East Sussex for the continued operation of Dungeness B because of job security and related economic benefits.

Its director, Martin Pearson, said: "Life extension means the station will continue to provide hundreds of skilled jobs and provide a launch pad for the apprentices who will begin their careers at Dungeness B. We'll also carry on contributing more than £40m to the local economy."

The GMB union welcomed news of the reprieve and said that as well as safeguarding 750 jobs at the plant it would also create jobs in the engineering construction supply chain.

But the Green Party's energy and environment spokesman, Andrew Cooper, said the decision was based on "an unacceptable lack of imagination and commonsense" by the government and said the country should be investing in energy innovation.

Neighbouring Dungeness A was decommissioned in 2006.

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