Fifty year lifespan for reactors

Magnox Electric will attempt to operate Britain’s oldest nuclear reactors for up to 50 years, revealed Mark Baker, the company’s chairman. An increase in the operating lives of the plants beyond 40 years would give Magnox the potential to make significant profits and should allay some of the concerns over its transfer to British Nuclear […]

Magnox Electric will attempt to operate Britain’s oldest nuclear reactors for up to 50 years, revealed Mark Baker, the company’s chairman.

An increase in the operating lives of the plants beyond 40 years would give Magnox the potential to make significant profits and should allay some of the concerns over its transfer to British Nuclear Fuels, the first stage of which is scheduled for next month.

Such a move would also secure existing jobs at the reactors and create tens of thousands of engineering manhours – many with outside contractors – in preparing the safety cases.

In the short term, extending the operating lives of the plants is key to bridging the gap between the company’s liabilities and its ability to pay for them – a shortfall that narrowed from £1,328m to £682m last year.

`We see that deficit being eliminated in the next couple of years,’ said Stephen Ogle, finance director.

Magnox Electric has already secured consent to operate seven of its eight remaining reactors with steel pressure vessels for up to 40 years, a move that Ogle said had added £200m to the company’s projected net lifetime revenues.

He said a similar dispensation for the concrete-vesselled units at the Oldbury and Wylfa plants could add a further £500m.

BNFL itself secured conditional consent from the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate in July 1996 to operate its two smaller Magnox plants for up to 50 years, and Baker said Magnox Electric was planning to do the same. Preliminary work on a safety case submission is under way at Bradwell, the oldest of the plants still operating.

BNFL completed a £130m refurbishment last month of its Magnox reprocessing facilities at Sellafield, to enable it to continue operating for the next 20 years.