LONDON (Reuters) - EDF Energy said on Friday it was confident its Hunterston B nuclear plant in Scotland would eventually reopen, having been offline since last year after cracks were discovered in the reactor’s graphite core.
The plant, which is more than 40 years old, can generate enough electricity to power more than 1.7 million homes, and is one of Britain’s eight nuclear plants which provide around 20 percent of the country’s electricity.
“Hunterston B will operate until 2023,” said a spokeswoman for EDF Energy, the British arm of French utility EDF.
The two Hunterston reactors have suffered several restart delays and are currently scheduled to return to service at the end of June and July.
EDF Energy said a 100 million pound, 5-year research process had been undertaken into issues surrounding the lifetime of its plants.
“Market rules mean we would immediately have to announce if this extensive research had altered our expectations about the closure of our power stations,” the spokeswoman said.
She was responding to a report by the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), a non-profit organisation, published on Friday, which said Britain’s climate target could be in jeopardy if the plant does not re-open and if the six other nuclear plants in Britain, with the same Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) design, were also forced to close early.
“If this happens it is unlikely that the lights will go out, but it could make hitting our carbon targets more challenging,” said Jonathan Marshall author of the ECIU report.
The ECIU report said the government should launch fresh support for new renewable projects, to ensure any gap in nuclear generation is filled by low-carbon sources instead of gas plants.
EDF Energy said the scenario outlined in the report was unrealistic.
“The extensive work we have carried out at Hunterston B has given us a greater understanding of how graphite ages and for that reason we don’t expect other AGRs to have to undergo the same lengthy outages,” she said.
The ultimate decision on reopening Hunterston lies with Britain’s Office for Nuclear Regulation which must be satisfied the reactors would be safe even in an extreme and unlikely earthquake scenario.
Reporting By Susanna Twidale; editing by David Evans