Hinkley Point B nuclear power station could benefit from a life extension, minister suggests


Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is considering extending the life of the Hinkley Point B power station, but only if the nuclear plant meets “safety certification”, a culture minister has suggested.

Appearing on Times Radio, Chris Philp was asked about reports that ministers had been warned of potential power cuts to up to six million homes this winter, with the government drawing up plans for rationed electricity if power problems supplies were deteriorating.

Last month, Mr Kwarteng wrote to the owners of the UK’s last coal-fired power stations asking them to stay open longer than planned, and Hinkley Point B, a nuclear power station in Somerset, could also benefit from an extension .

Mr Philp called the business secretary’s actions ‘reasonable’ and ‘precautionary’ and, when asked about the risks of keeping Hinkley Point B open, the culture minister stressed that for the government ‘safety is paramount’ .

No extension of the life of a power station in the UK, let alone a nuclear power station, would take place unless the safety certification had been carried out very thoroughly

Chris Philip

He said no UK power station life extension would take place ‘unless the safety certification has been carried out very thoroughly’.

It was announced that Hinkley Point B Power Station was to go into decommissioning over the next two years in November 2020.

EDF said Hinkley Point B power station in Somerset would have been moved into the draining phase by July 2022 at the latest.

Hinkley Point B began generating electricity in 1976 and has since produced over 300 terawatt hours of electricity – an amount of energy that would meet the electricity needs of every home in the UK for three years.

Mr Philp told Times Radio: ‘I think what Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng did last week was to take reasonable precautionary measures to guard against the potential worst-case scenario.

“He asked, I think, the three remaining coal-fired power plant operators to just keep their plants available beyond the point at which they were to be shut down, and I think he wonders if Hinkley B, the large nuclear power plant station, could also continue beyond its planned end of life.

Culture Minister Chris Philp (House of Commons)

(PA Archive)

“It is a reasonable precautionary measure, given that the gas supply from Russia and Ukraine is, for obvious reasons, so heavily disrupted and we use, of course, a lot of gas to produce electricity. ‘electricity.

“Only a very small proportion of that, of course, comes from Russia. A lot of ours comes from Norway and is in the form of liquefied natural gas, but, of course, the disruption in the global gas market will have an effect drive which could affect the gas we consume in the UK.

“So I think these are just reasonable precautionary measures, just to guard against a potential worst-case scenario.”

Asked about the risks and whether the government has any concerns about Hinkley Point B, given ‘it’s almost 50 years old’, Mr Philp said: ‘Well obviously in terms of the production of n nuclear power, or indeed any electricity generation, safety is paramount.

“So no life extension of a power station in the UK, let alone a nuclear power station, would take place unless the safety certification had been carried out very thoroughly.

“We are very fortunate in the UK to have an incredibly good safety record around our nuclear power stations which have now been operating for, I think, around 60 years, longer than that, probably around 70 years now.

“We obviously have no intention of watering down or reducing these state-of-the-art and incredibly high security standards.”

The newspaper writes that limits could be placed on the industrial use of gas, including at gas-fired power plants, causing power shortages.

According to the Times, government modeling of a “reasonable” worst-case scenario predicts major winter gas shortages if Russia further cuts supplies to the EU.

Thus, six million households could see their electricity rationed, mainly during morning and evening peaks, in cuts that could last more than a month.

Worse modeling is reported for a scenario in which Russia cuts all supplies to the EU.

A government spokesman told the PA news agency that the request to close the Drax, Ratcliffe and West Burton power stations, which were due to close in September, was made ‘in light’ of the Russian invasion from Ukraine.

“It is right that we explore a wide range of options to further strengthen our energy security and domestic supply – reducing long-term costs,” the spokesperson said.

“Although there is no shortage of supply, we may need to make our remaining coal-fired power plants available to provide additional backup power this winter if needed.

“We remain firmly committed to ending the use of coal power by October 2024.”

A Number 10 spokesman played down fears of power cuts and energy rationing.

He said: “I think you would expect the government to look at a range of scenarios to make sure the plans are sound regardless of their likelihood of success. Neither the government nor the national grid expects power cuts this winter.

“You will know that we are in a privileged position, we are not dependent on Russian energy imports and have one of the most reliable and diversified energy systems.”

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