A life less long

BNFL is bringing forward the planned dates for cessation of generation at Calder Hall and Chapelcross, the Company’s oldest Magnox power stations.

The Calder Hall reactors, originally due to start closing in 2006, will now shut down in March 2003 and those at Chapelcross, originally due to start closing in 2008, will complete a progressive shut down by no later than March 2005.

BNFL says that it has been driven to this decision by the continuing low prices in the wholesale electricity market. Both stations have small generating capacity by today’s standards giving rise to relatively high fixed overheads and their operating costs – particularly for the fuel cycle – have increased significantly recently. The income that the power stations can generate no longer covers the costs of operation.

Both power stations will continue to operate while staff tackle the considerable amount of work needed to plan and prepare for the defuelling and subsequent decommissioning of the reactors.

‘We can’t start decommissioning immediately,’ said BNFL’s Chief Executive Norman Askew, ‘because we have to prepare ourselves and get formal consent for our plans from our independent safety watchdogs. In the mean time, we need to earn some valuable income rather than leave the reactors idle. At Chapelcross, we also need to complete work under contract for the Ministry of Defence, which is the reason that this station will operate longer than Calder Hall.’

BNFL’s announcement follows a review of the operation of its whole Magnox reactor fleet. The review concluded that continued operation of the larger Magnox stations has a sound economic basis but that Calder Hall and Chapelcross, with their relatively low output but high overheads, had become loss-making.

All other Magnox reactors will operate to their existing planned lifetimes, subject to them continuing to remain safe and economic.

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