Torness Nuclear Power Station to Close in 2028
The Scottish government is against building more nuclear power stations in Scotland. However, the recent announcement from EDF shows that they have revised their expectations for the life of the station. This revision will help them plan for future needs and provide certainty for staff and stakeholders. As of this writing, the station has produced nearly 280TWh of zero-carbon electricity - enough to power every home in Scotland for 28 years! But are these numbers enough?
A Scottish nuclear power station is set to close in 2028, resulting in the loss of around 1,300 jobs. Torness, built in the 1980s, is the last second-generation nuclear power station to be commissioned. Despite being an important landmark in the region, the power station is scheduled to cease operating in 2028 and undergo defuelling. There are several reasons why this closure is vital to the Scottish economy.
First, the new power station is likely to benefit the economy by creating more high-skilled manufacturing jobs. The increased manufacturing employment will boost the economy, since it is typically in highly skilled and high-paid sectors. Moreover, the new power plant will increase the country's nuclear expertise, which could lead to significant future export earnings. In addition to the immediate economic impact of the project, a nuclear power plant is also expected to generate a large number of other benefits for the region.
The construction of the plant has created more than 1,300 jobs in the area. The project is also estimated to generate PS56 million in the region and PS58 million in the UK. Once fully operational, it is estimated that the plant will produce enough power to power up to 2.5 million homes. The construction site is situated on 130 hectares of land, with good access to major transport infrastructure and seawater for cooling. The Lothian Regional Council also provided fresh water to the site. The investment in civil engineering for the plant totalled PS240 million.
The investment scheme will also include the design, manufacturing and installation of 52 new reactors. In addition, the project will include four new enrichment facilities and one recycling facility. The economic benefits from the project are also estimated to be around $2 billion and over two hundred thousand jobs at the peak. This is a very good deal for the economy in the UK. Further, it will also create a high-tech industry that will benefit from the increased nuclear capacity.
The 'beast from the east' weather conditions led to increased amounts of seaweed at a Scottish nuclear power station. As a result, it entered the cooling water intake system and shut down the reactor. EDF Energy, which operates the plant, said it took this action to ensure the reliability of electricity supplies. As a result, the reactor has been restarted and is now fully operational. While the 'beast' has caused a disruption to some services, the plant has been up and running again by Sunday.
Heysham 2 and Torness AGR came online in 1988. Both plants were originally scheduled to have an operating life of between twenty-five and thirty years, but in 2016 these were extended until 2030. Consequently, there is a risk of the seaborne nuisances increasing as the age of the plants decreases. Despite the risks associated with these plants, the UK has a high proportion of nuclear energy.
Biological fouling caused by nuclear plants is extremely costly and must be dealt with quickly. To combat the problem, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has issued a report warning that the processes used to monitor the impact of jellyfish on the environment will need to change. Climate change also helps the nuisance species. This is the reason why the UK government has set up a PS383,000 grant to investigate the issues surrounding jellyfish.
Cracking graphite cores
The EDF Energy company which operates the Torness nuclear power station in the United Kingdom has announced that it will close the facility in 2028 rather than 2030. This decision has been attributed to cracking of the reactor's graphite cores. The cracking could cause instabilities in the reactor, which could lead to a major nuclear disaster. The cracks were first detected during an inspection process, which took six months.
A 12-year-old reactor at the Hunterston plant in Scotland is also suffering from cracking in the graphite core. It is currently expected to end up with a thousand cracks. The reactor is responsible for producing enough zero-carbon electricity to power every home in Scotland for nearly 28 years. The closure of Hunterston B, a similar plant in England, is a bleak omen for the Scottish economy.
The Hunterston plant has been out of action since July 2017. However, the company is considering continuing operations at the site after the shutdown. The company has invested PS200 million in research to address the issue and ensure that the reactor is able to withstand a one-in-ten-million-year earthquake. Ultimately, the cracking at the Torness nuclear power station could affect the four other units, which are of similar construction. Despite the risk, the plants will continue to generate electricity safely for three to four years after a crack occurs.
The ONR has determined that cracking of graphite cores does not pose a threat to the safety of the reactors. The cracks were discovered in one reactor, and subsequent inspections confirmed that the cracks were present in the other three. The company has commissioned a comprehensive investigation and reissued its safety case. In the meantime, the company plans to continue to use the reactors in the UK.
The UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) is overseeing the Hunterston reactors. In June, the reactors were taken off line for inspection of graphite cylinders and the core. The nuclear company said that the inspectors found 28% of the core to be cracked and 200 major cracks in reactors three and four. The three reactors each contain three thousand graphite blocks.
Scottish government's opposition to new nuclear power stations
The opposition to new nuclear power stations in Scotland has been highlighted by the UK government, which wants to make its energy security strategy more ambitious. The UK energy minister has appealed for a reconsideration, citing the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, he has also acknowledged that planning powers are devolved, meaning the Scottish government must give its blessing before building a new nuclear power station. The two main parties in the UK, Labour and the Conservatives, have expressed support for nuclear power.
The UK government is currently planning to build new nuclear power stations in Wales and England, but there are no plans for any new reactors in Scotland. There is only one operating nuclear power station in Scotland, the Hunterston B site in North Ayrshire. The Scottish government's opposition to new nuclear power stations is based on safety and environmental concerns. However, it has the power to block new nuclear developments through its planning powers.
Mr Hands said it was a pity the Scottish government had decided to reject the project due to its ideological opposition to the technology. But he did mention new reactors being developed by Rolls-Royce. These new reactors are expected to be cheaper to build than conventional reactors, and could power around one million homes. In Scotland, the GMB union has said it is still possible to win a tender for a nuclear plant, even if it does not have a 'full scale' design.
The government also called for urgent decisions on the future of nuclear power, and issued a white paper in November 2018. The Scottish Government had committed to reach an investment decision on at least one new large-scale nuclear power station during the next parliament, which ends in December 2024. The government is also committing to providing additional resources to nuclear power, so that the country can meet its ambitious climate change targets. But it remains to be seen what the final decision will be.
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