Defueling success as first reactor fuel free at Hunterston B in Scotland
A key milestone has been successfully met in the first phase of decommissioning the UK’s fleet of seven Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor (AGR) nuclear power stations.
The defueling of the first reactor at Hunterston B has been completed, on time and on budget. Reactor 3, as it is known, was defueled in 16 months with work due to start shortly on the station’s second reactor.
The aim is to have the second reactor defueled and all spent fuel sent to Sellafield by mid-2025, prior to transfer of site ownership to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) in 2026. The NDA’s subsidiary, Magnox, is accountable for the long-term decommissioning of the AGRs and EDF is working closely with them on plans for the seamless transfer of Hunterston B in a timely manner.
Hunterston B’s Station Director, Joe Struthers, said: “Since the station stopped generating in January 2022 the team has been completely focused on doing this job safely and efficiently, providing value for money for the UK taxpayer.
“I am delighted with the dedication shown. While defueling is similar to the refuelling we carried out here for 46 years, the team at Hunterston B should be proud of the way they have adapted to our new mission, finding a whole new rhythm of working.”
EDF’s Nuclear Decommissioning Director, Paul Morton, said: “EDF has invested more than £7billion in the UK nuclear fleet since acquisition in 2009. That investment has helped secure life extensions for these sites and maximise nuclear’s contribution to energy security.
“Now in defueling, Hunterston B is setting the standard for the rest of the fleet and demonstrating the nuclear industry can deliver, working closely with key partners like Sellafield who are so crucial to the success of the defueling programme.
“Defueling the first of these reactors on time and on budget shows EDF’s commitment to delivering on this contract, ensuring this site is ready for transfer to Magnox in 2026.”
The AGR stations are currently forecast to stop generating in 2028, though EDF will continue to review lifetimes to ensure the four generating stations can continue to support the UK’s energy security for as long as it is safe and commercially viable to do so.
Over the last 50 years, the seven AGR power stations have generated more than 1,800TWh of zero carbon electricity, enough to power every UK home for more than 16 years. The carbon avoided by using nuclear instead of gas stations is equal to nine years of UK car emissions. Tens of thousands of jobs have been supported and communities across the UK have benefitted.
Notes to editors:
- Defueling involves removing all the spent nuclear fuel from a nuclear site. EDF will be supported by the internal and external independent regulators, Independent Nuclear Assurance (INA), and, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) in confirming when all spent fuel has been removed from the site. This will be called Fuel Free Verification (FFV).
- EDF took responsibility for managing the UK’s AGR fleet in 2009 and signed a contract with the UK Government in June 2021 to defuel all seven AGR stations (14 reactors) and Sizewell B, the UK’s only Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR). Sizewell B is due to generate until 2035 with work underway to achieve a 20-year life extension.
- The decommissioning of the AGR fleet is funded by the Nuclear Liabilities Fund, which was established in 1996 and has received contributions for its shareholding of British Energy, from operators (British Energy and EDF) and from UK Government.
- Three of the seven AGR stations are currently in the defueling stage of the nuclear lifecycle; Hunterston B, Hinkley Point B in Somerset and Dungeness B in Kent.
- Four AGR stations are still generating zero carbon electricity for the grid. Heysham 1 and Hartlepool are currently forecast to generate until March 2026. Heysham 2 and Torness are currently due to generate until March 2028.
- New nuclear reactors like the European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs) being built at Hinkley Point C or planned for Sizewell C are designed differently to the AGRs. They will be built with decommissioning in mind and take approximately 20 years to decommission. This work will be financed by a Funded Decommissioning Plan (FDP), which ensures that the developer will meet the costs of decommissioning the plant and managing and disposing of its waste.