Safety limits of Britain’s ageing nuclear power plants may have to be extended to avoid major blackouts
Dorian Lucas, a nuclear specialist at energy consultancy, Inenco, made his comments after it was revealed that power group, EDF, had won permission to change the rules for its Dungeness B station.
“Britain has no choice but to gamble with extending the safety limits of the country’s ageing fleet of nuclear power plants to avoid the looming spectre of 1970s-style blackouts,” said Lucas.
The atomic power station in Kent has come to an agreement with the Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) that it can have the margin increased on the shrinkage of the graphite bricks inside the reactor from 6.2% to 8%.
In a statement, the nuclear regulator said: “ONR would not allow continued operation of any nuclear reactor unless it was safe to do so. We recognise the challenges presented by ageing of the Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) fleet in the UK, and we continue to pay close attention to the problems associated with the graphite core of the reactors. We are satisfied that the reactors are safe to operate.”
But Steve Thomas, professor of energy policy at the University of Greenwich, told the BBC: “It doesn’t feel good when we come up against limits and the first thing they [the ONR] do is to move the goalposts.”
Related article: Dungeness B nuclear plant operator wants safety limit raised