Lifetime of Scotland's nuclear plants could be extended, says EDF

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 17 October 2016 in News

EDF’s Scottish Business Director suggests that depending on assessments of how the plants age, their life span could be extended

Nuclear power plant - Fotolia

It may be possible to extend the operation of Scotland’s nuclear plants past their current projected lifespans, according to their operator.

Scotland has two nuclear power stations, both run by French state-owned energy company EDF – Torness, based in East Lothian, and Hunterston, in North Ayreshire. Hunterston began operating in 1976 and is due to go offline in 2023, while Torness went online in 1988, and is due to close in 2030.

But Paul Winkle, EDF’s Scottish Business Director, has suggested that depending on assessments of how the plants age, their life span could be extended.


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Speaking at an EDF fringe at the SNP conference, Winkle said: “The current life for Hunterston is 2023 and Torness is 2030, and that is based on our assessment of ageing mechanisms in those plants and being absolutely sure that when they are shut down they are still safe to operate.

“But to go beyond that we will do assessments and it may be possible to make some small further extensions, but we will not operate them beyond when we are confident they are safe to operate. Our current estimate is, with Hunterston, we get to a point where, if we go beyond 2023 there will be uncertainty. We will do more analysis in due course. Those dates are based on our best judgement.”

Torness has originally been expected to close in 2023, but had its lifetime extended by seven years back in February. Hunterston had expected to close in 2011, but had its lifetime extended until 2017. Then in 2012 EDF gave approval for operation to continue until 2023.

As well as running two plants in Scotland, EDF is also behind plans for the controversial Hinkely Point nuclear station, which was given the go-ahead by Prime Minister Theresa May earlier this month.

Winkle added: “Hunterston will be closed in about ten years’ time, and Torness will be close in about 15 years’ time, and they are producing a large proportion of Scotland’ electricity. When they go, will we have secure, affordable, reliable power?

“In order for us to have that ability to switch the lights on any time we want to, we need three things. We want it to be low carbon, because we need to avoid climate change. We want it to be affordable, and we want it to be reliable. And that question, what happens when the wind isn’t blowing, there are other technologies that we need to consider to ensure that security of supply.

“So I am not going to tell you what the answer is, but clearly, over time existing power stations will be closing and we need to get into a debate about how we ensure that safe, secure, reliable supply of electricity.”

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