12 Dec 13

EDF Energy inaugurates off-site Emergency Response Centre at Sizewell B

EDF Energy has inaugurated a new Emergency Response Centre near the Sizewell B nuclear power station. When it becomes fully operational in March, it will complete a three year programme of work following the events at Fukushima.

A thorough review of the UK’s nuclear power sector by the Chief Nuclear Inspector Dr Mike Weightman found that UK facilities had "no fundamental weaknesses." He made a number of recommendations to further enhance safety and resilience.

EDF Energy’s initiated a £180m plan to meet these recommendations at its eight nuclear power stations. This has included additional training for key technical staff, enhancements to backup equipment for cooling systems, and emergency command and control facilities. This work is being delivered within the time agreed with the regulator and on budget.

The Emergency Response Centre near Sizewell B will provide robust back-up for the multiple safety systems already in place at the station. It contains back-up plant and control systems to enable operators to control the station remotely if necessary, as well as emergency equipment, high pressure pumps and vehicles that could be rapidly deployed in the case of an extreme event.

EDF Energy CEO Vincent de Rivaz inaugurated the centre with Department for Energy and Climate Change minister Baroness Verma.

He said: "We committed as a company to respond to Fukushima in the right way and do whatever was required to ensure the continued safety and resilience of our nuclear power stations

"Today’s inauguration shows that we have done what we said we would do. This demonstrates that we have delivered a nuclear construction project on time and on cost. It represents a further major investment in the future of low carbon nuclear power in the UK and will provide an additional line of defence here at Sizewell."

During his speech, Vincent de Rivaz confirmed that the next nuclear power station being considered for life extension is Dungeness B in Kent. He said: "A life extension would mean that Dungeness B could continue to operate safely and help to keep the lights on until a new generation of nuclear power stations is built in Britain." 

Baroness Verma said: "I strongly welcome this emergency response centre as the culmination of EDF Energy’s work on resilience and emergency preparedness in response to events at Fukushima – and a further visible demonstration of EDF’s commitment to nuclear safety. I look forward to our continued close cooperation in this essential area as the UK moves forward with building a new generation of nuclear power stations at the heart of a clean, secure and affordable energy mix for consumers."

As the only Pressurised Water Reactor operating in the UK, Sizewell B has a dedicated ERC in response to a recommendation of the Office for Nuclear Regulation to further enhance safety margins. EDF Energy has created three regional facilities to service its other nuclear power stations which use a different technology. 

Stuart Crooks, Chief Technical Officer for EDF Energy’s existing nuclear business said: "The nuclear industry regulator confirmed the nuclear power stations in the UK are safe, and we took the opportunity to further enhance safety and resilience.

"We have considered events with a probability of 1 in 10,000 years.  With off-site back-up equipment we have multiple layers of defence for our power stations and resilience in depth."