The Wylfa nuclear power plant on the island of Anglesey, has been officially closed after a 44 year tenure, further fuelling concerns over the UK’s energy supply.
The plant, which is owned by EDF Energy, was already due to be shut down back in 2010, but it was kept open amid worries about a potential energy shortage, given the lack of other plants under construction at the time.
But now, the final reactor has been run down, after decision put through by a private body acting on behalf on the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The decommissioning process is expected to last for another ten years and will cost EDF around £700 million.
Stuart Law, site director at Wylfa, spoke of the plants positive legacy, describing it as having been “a terrific success story for Anglesey and for the UK nuclear industry.”
He went on: “We have generated safely and securely for many years, which is an excellent achievement.”
He describe the closure as bringing a “safe and dignified end to the generation of electricity at Wylfa.”
The closure of the plant has brought worries about the already stretched electricity supply in the UK. However, National Grid have assured that there will be no blackouts following the closure, and no real cause for concern, as various emergency measures are already in place to cope with any excessive demand. The recent mild Winter though should go at least some way toward taking some of the strain off our energy supply.
Plans already exist for a new plant to be built on the site, which will be run by the relatively new initiative Horizon Nuclear Power, owned by Japanese company Hitachi. The new plant at Wylfa is one of three in the pipeline for Horizon, the other two to be constructed in Gloucestershire and Cumbria.
However, the future of Horizon’s plants, and indeed of the nuclear industry in general, are very much dependent on the success of EDF’s next nuclear plant, Hinkley Point C in Somerset.
Development of the plant at Hinkley Point has been fraught with difficulty from the offset.
Costs have risen regularly – the lowest estimates were around £ 13 billion, the highest £24 billion – now, with Chinese investment finally confirmed, the final costs look to be around £18 billion.
Construction has been delayed several times due to problems with securing investment, particularly given worries about the European Pressurised Reactor design that has failed in the past. The very first estimates for the completion date for HInkley Point C were forecasted for 2018; now 2025 is the date being given but even that does not look certain. A similar plant in Normandy, also built using the EPR design, faced similar delays.
Once completed, Hinkley is set to produce around 7% of the country’s total electricity usage and marks a significant step towards a generally lower carbon energy landscape in the UK. If Hinkley is a success, then in will like spur further investment into nuclear plants, such as those being built by Horizon, which would, in turn, further us along the green path.