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Hunterston B to close two years early

September 2, 2020

By Paul Homewood


This one sneaked under the radar last week:



Hunterston B nuclear power station in Ayrshire is to close almost two years early after cracks were found in the core of its reactors.

Regulators have given permission for reactor three to resume operations for a further six months despite more than 350 cracks in the graphite bricks.

Owner EDF Energy said it would seek authority for a second six-month run.

The company told BBC Scotland there would be 125 job losses when power generation ends.

The process of decommissioning will begin no later than January 2022. The reactor was due to continue operation until 2023.

Hunterston is one of a number of nuclear plants due to close in the next few years, most of which have already had extra life squeezed out of them:




With coal plants all due to go by 2025 as well, we will be more reliant on gas and Hinkley Point C than ever.

  1. Mikehig permalink
    September 2, 2020 10:55 am

    I thought the coal plants had a limited number of operating hours and will have to close once those are used up – possibly well before 2025?

    • September 2, 2020 1:22 pm

      That’s right. I think 2025 is the final date allowed

      • Mikehig permalink
        September 2, 2020 5:18 pm

        Thanks Paul.
        Add this to the 2 gas plants mothballed the other day and suddenly we have lost over 2 GW of dispatchable capacity.

  2. jack broughton permalink
    September 2, 2020 10:56 am

    An extra area for real concern about the demise of coal and nuclear stations is that of security of supply of power. Gas turbines are excellent, reliable and efficient machines but offer no storage potential. The storage of coal proved itself during the miners’ strike and actually allowed the conservative government to win the conflict.

    The UK is becoming more reliant on gas supplies from Europe and Russia, plus electric cables. These supplies can be cut-off in seconds, without warning. Then the UK power grid will be able to provide less than 20 GW for a short time: who will get this power?.

    The UK could have bought up cheap oil over recent months as part of a storage strategy then look to convert the CCGTs to dual fuel firing, but is totally dominated by the elite chattering-class in London: which many people wrongly describe as left-wing, so such a policy was not considered.

    We all hope that peace continues to reign, but history teaches us differently!

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      September 2, 2020 4:56 pm

      I’m not quite as concerned about gas supply. Here’s how imports broke down in 2019:

      LNG is a competitive internationally traded market, so we have reduced our early reliance on Qatar for that. Our pipeline supply is dominated by Norway (and also domestic production, which is still a large chunk). We aren’t close to LNG import capacity, and ships in transit represent a stock that is ignored in the official storage statistics. We have very limited import from Russia – all as LNG. Do not be confused by Gazprom re-selling North Sea gas that it bought from British Gas into the UK market: it’s UKCS production fed into a direct pipeline to shore. As yet, Russia doesn’t own the UKCS! The limited Belgian and Dutch pipeline imports are essentially mostly fed by Norwegian pipelines.

      Interconnectors are a different game. It’s not merely about supply, but also about price. If there is a general European shortage because of over-reliance on renewables then we get to be in a bidding war. Those who lose get the blackouts: if the blackouts become widespread everybody loses and we all get a system black. If there is a general oversupply from renewables, we get to subsidise negative priced exports (this has already been happening, but will get much worse as renewables capacity rises) – or pay for curtailments.

      • Mikehig permalink
        September 2, 2020 5:20 pm

        The LNG market may get a lot tighter if Biden is elected and shuts down fracking – the source of America’s growing LNG export trade.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        September 2, 2020 8:36 pm

        I guess you missed the news. Biden said he never said he was going to close down fracking. Confused? You won’t be after this episode of…

      • Micky permalink
        September 6, 2020 7:52 am

        At one stage during the cooler spell in March 2018, we had about five days gas reserve remaining. Coal fired stations can stockpile to 18 months of fuel supply, Sizewell B can run for up to 18 months without refueling.

  3. Ariane permalink
    September 2, 2020 11:44 am

    Jack, you are right – about how worrying energy supply is – and also when you say it is wrong to call the elites ‘left-wing.’ These elites making decisions about our energy supply have absolutely no concern about us plebs. Those who like to claim they’re Leftist yet claim they want to decarbonise and ‘save the planet’ do not have the interests of working people at heart. They are ‘infantiles’ without a clue or insidious extreme right-wingers who know exactly what they are doing.

  4. September 2, 2020 11:50 am

    By 2030 – if not before – any demand spikes lasting more than a very brief period will threaten the whole UK grid system.

  5. Geoff B permalink
    September 2, 2020 12:10 pm

    California and South Australia here we come… Lemmings over the cliff…..

    • markl permalink
      September 2, 2020 5:40 pm

      +1 You can see it coming but can’t stop it. I’d say “vote” to stop it but that doesn’t seem to work in the UK against the AGW scam.

      • September 8, 2020 8:18 am

        You’re quite correct. There don’t seem to be any politicians of any party willing to stand against this madness. The LibLabCon ensures that whoever we vote for we get the same policies just with different colour page tabs.

  6. Harry Davidson permalink
    September 2, 2020 1:36 pm

    The politicians have proved by induction that closing reserve capacity does not cause grid failure.
    1. They close 5% of capacity and there were no failures.
    2. They have shown that whenever they close another 5% there is no failure
    Ergo, they can repeat this as often as they like and there will be no failure. Anyone who understands proof by induction can see this.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      September 2, 2020 2:37 pm

      It’s what powers induction motors…

    • jack broughton permalink
      September 2, 2020 3:17 pm

      Looking at the gobbledegook reports like the Governments report of 2019 – Statutory Security of Supply Report, it is worse than you think: they do not appreciate that storage is more about MWh stored than MW delivered. Apparently we have 3 GW pumped storage and 1 GW battery and that is all we need for a cold, windless winter! They also look on Demand Side Response as a long-term grid protection.

      The report builds on the National Grid junk science approach to the UK power system. I never thought that I’d say it, but the old CEGB actually looked after both capacity and security of supply.

  7. Phillip Bratby permalink
    September 2, 2020 3:27 pm

    We should grant Scotland immediate independence and then open the circuit breakers on the interconnetors to England. The money saved (Barnet formula and ROCs) could be spent on power stations in England. Just dreaming.

    • Steve permalink
      September 2, 2020 3:40 pm

      It would be so good to see Nicola switched off in the middle of her daily broadcasts to the rest of the UK to let us know that we have to quarantine coming back to Scotland directly from Greece and not flying from Manchester. In fact, who needs a power cut.

    • Mikehig permalink
      September 2, 2020 5:26 pm

      Phillip B: I’ve had the same thought! Indeed why can’t we have a referendum on whether we want to keep Scotland in the Union? Whatever the outcome, it would give the government a clear lead on how to handle the issue, ranging from trying hard (bribing) them to stay to saying good riddance and throwing the interconnector switches.

      • Nial permalink
        September 3, 2020 11:32 am

        Guys, please don’t forget the vast majority here are sick to the back teeth of Sturgeon and her bloody neverendum.

        Unfortunately the pro-union vote is split 3 ways so the SNP are elected (they’re currently running a minority administration propped up by the greens).

        Bear this in mind the next time you hear one of the frothing idiots ranting on about “the people of Scotland”, they’re talking about a (badly informed) minority.

  8. Steve permalink
    September 2, 2020 3:43 pm

    This fits in nicely with the CCC recommended action accepted by the government. Only one other nuke apart from HP is needed to keep us going through a cold windless winter lull lasting two weeks. Apparently.

  9. johnbillscott permalink
    September 2, 2020 4:38 pm

    A few rolling blackout’s, a la California, may concentrate the mind about relying on solar and wind to provide a sustainable and reliable power source.

  10. Curious George permalink
    September 2, 2020 4:50 pm

    Cracks in the graphite bricks? We are all going to die.

  11. jack broughton permalink
    September 4, 2020 1:21 pm

    I see in today’e press that the UK are to take delivery of some floating wind farms: recently heralded as a great UK leading area which will create loads of jobs. The capacity is said to be 50MW to be anchored off-shore Scotland. The significant fact is that these are to be built in Rotterdam …… Where will the new jobs be located and who will pay for these expensive prototypes???

  12. Michael Boulton permalink
    September 4, 2020 2:22 pm

    Cracks Eh! My cousin worked in the instrumentation department ay Berkeley CEGB nuclear labs. They had some new instrumentation for inspecting nuclear plant that was much more sensitive than the previous kit, it could detect very much smaller cracks. After calibrating and checking the new kit they gave it to the inspection team. The inspectors went and checked Berkeley and Oldbury-on-Severn nuclear stations (both now de-fuelled and awaiting decommissioning) and they found lots of cracks especially in welded parts. They found most of them to be stable, i.e. not growing or growing very slowly. The CEGB concluded that the majority of the cracks had been in existence since the stations were built. I can see Oldbury station from the end of my road, a very distinctive building.
    Before retirement I was a stress engineer for 42 years in the Aerospace and Defence industry and fatigue and fracture mechanics were a large part of my working life. You start from the premis that every manufactured component has cracks, normally submicroscopic. Knowing the stress field and the cyclic nature of the load you can calculate the rate of crack growth and the crack critical length at which the component fails. The service intervals will be known and thus it will be known when to replace the component or on an aircraft maybe the whole engine. In aircraft wing structures the spars carry the load into the fuselage these spars a design feature in them called a ‘crack stopper’. So if a crack has developed the pad can be replaced (big job) or repaired.
    So cracks are not dangerous in themselves. They can be monitored and the component or equipment given a finite life. This is probably what will happen in the case of the core of the Hunterston station.

  13. Micky permalink
    September 6, 2020 7:57 am

    The cracking of the graphite blocks in AGRs and Magnox stations is something that has been successfully managed for decades.

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