Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) — Electricite de France SA, Europe’s biggest power producer, will extend the life of two British nuclear plants by seven years as the U.K. government seeks to meet energy demand with low-carbon generation.
EDF Energy, the utility’s local unit, expects the Hinkley Point B plant in western England and Hunterston B in Scotland to operate until at least 2023, generating enough power for about 2 million homes, the company said today in a statement. Plans to build new reactors are also progressing, it said.
“Life extension does not replace the need for new low- carbon generation,” Chief Executive Officer Vincent de Rivaz said in the statement. “Even as we agree to extend the life of our existing plants, we are moving forward with plans to create the next generation of nuclear power stations.”
EDF, GDF Suez SA and Iberdrola SA are among companies studying British nuclear expansion as the government seeks to replace an aging fleet of power stations without adding to emissions. EDF operates eight U.K. atomic plants with a combined generation capacity of almost 9 gigawatts, and has proposed to add new reactors at its Hinkley Point and Sizewell sites.
EDF expects to extend the lifespan of all its so-called advanced gas-cooled reactors by an average of seven years, it said in the statement. The utility sees a 20-year extension for its Sizewell B plant.
“It’s very much a global trend,” Malcolm Grimston, an analyst at Chatham House in London, said today. “The main costs of nuclear are in building the thing in the first place and once you’ve built it, as long as you can demonstrate you can operate it safely, it makes a lot of sense to keep operating it as long as you can because the operating costs are very low.”
Reactor lifetimes depend on the individual plant and discussions with the safety regulator, according to Grimston. The Wylfa nuclear power station in north Wales has operated since 1971 and will close in 2014, while Magnox Ltd.’s Berkeley facility in Gloucestershire, the first commercial U.K. nuclear plant to be decommissioned, ran for 27 years.
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