Decision enabled by £150m investment programme in Kent nuclear plant

EDF Energy has extended the expected life of its Dungeness B nuclear power station by ten years. This means it is due to continue generating low carbon electricity until 2028, producing enough power each year to supply the equivalent of 1.5m homes.

The decision has been made possible by a £150m* investment programme to extend the life of the station. It comes after extensive reviews of the plant’s safety cases** and work with the independent nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). The station will also be subject to continuing independent safety reviews by the ONR.

Improvement projects at Dungeness B have already included a £75m upgrade to control room computer systems and £8m on enhanced flood defences.

The life extension at Dungeness B is part of a wider EDF Energy programme to extend the lives of its eight nuclear power stations. Based on the expected life extensions, all seven AGR stations*** will be operating in 2023 when the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point C is due to be commissioned, subject to a final investment decision.

The case for investment in Dungeness B and other nuclear power stations has been supported by the existence of the capacity market – one of the reforms of the electricity market which gives investors confidence in highly challenging conditions. EDF Energy is currently investing around £600m a year at its eight nuclear stations.

Today’s announcement also secures 550 jobs and work for 200 contractors at the site, as well as maintaining essential expertise in engineering and the UK nuclear industry.

The decision was formally announced this morning by EDF Energy CEO, Vincent de Rivaz, at an event in London for EDF Energy’s strategic supply partners. Many of these companies have worked with EDF Energy on the investment and technical innovation needed to safely extend the life of its nuclear power stations.

During the conference, new supplier contracts will be signed including :

  • £150m over five years with Cape plc for the supply of access, insulation and services in support all of EDF Energy’s nuclear power stations. Around 300 jobs will be safeguarded by this contract plus 200 during “outage” maintenance periods
  • a contract with Cavendish Nuclear, part of Babcock International, for carrying out inspections of graphite in the reactors, maintaining gas circulators and providing support at all the EDF Energy nuclear stations. The agreement is worth around £40 million every year
  • a strategic nuclear partnership between EDF Energy, Amec Foster Wheeler, Cavendish Nuclear, Atkins and Doosan Babcock to share knowledge and expertise in support of the nuclear stations

Vincent de Rivaz, EDF Energy Chief Executive, said: “The decision to extend the life of Dungeness B is only possible because of the collaboration, innovation and technical expertise of EDF Energy and its long-term partners. Customers will benefit from this significant investment through many more years of reliable, low carbon electricity.”

Martin Pearson, Station Director at Dungeness B, said: “We’ve invested heavily in Dungeness so that we could make the case to safely extend its life by ten years.

“Life extension means the station will continue to provide hundreds of skilled jobs and provide a launchpad for the apprentices who will begin their careers at Dungeness B. We’ll also carry on contributing more than £40 million to the local economy in Kent and East Sussex.”

Research carried out in October 2014 shows that two-thirds (67%) of people living around Dungeness are supportive of nuclear energy and three-quarters (76%) agree that nuclear energy is a necessary part of the energy mix****.

EDF Energy is committed to making Dungeness B accessible to local communities and to use it as a source of scientific inspiration and education for local schools and students. Since the opening of its visitor centre in 2013, more than 10,000 people have been to the station to see nuclear power at first hand.

Dungeness B facts and figures

  • started generating in 1983
  • operates two Advanced Gas Cooled Reactors (AGRs) capable of producing 1050 MW
  • last year the station produced 4.4TWh of electricity, equivalent to the power used each year by around 40 per cent of homes in Greater London
  • the amount of CO2 avoided by this generation is 3.4 million tonnes, equivalent to taking 1.5million cars off Britain’s roads
  • employs 550 people plus another 200 contract staff which can increase four-fold during planned maintenance programmes

* The level of capital expenditure required for the 10 year life extension at Dungeness B is specific to this plant and its unique design.

** A Safety Case is a structured argument, supported by evidence, to show that a system is acceptably safe.

***AGR – “Advanced Gas-Cooled Reactors” are the second generation of British gas-cooled reactors. They use graphite as a moderator and are cooled primarily with carbon dioxide. Nuclear generation does not however emit any CO2. The first AGR in commercial operation was Hinkley Point B in 1976.

**** 7 Site Survey 2014; ICM Research on behalf of EDF Energy. Results are based on interviews with 3,513 adults aged 18+, across 7 target sites (500 respondents each).

Additional photos and b-roll footage of Dungeness B power station can be accessed by clicking here