22 Jan 21

Maintenance starts at Torness as power station clocks up longest ever run

A major maintenance period is getting underway at Torness power station in East Lothian.

Operators at the EDF site took one of the two units offline on 22 January; the maintenance will last for around 10 weeks. This happens once every three years and is like an MOT for the unit allowing work that cannot take place while the reactor is switched on to be carried out. It is a statutory requirement to allow continued generation of low carbon electricity from the site.

Over the past year Covid-19 has meant changes to ways of working at the power station to support staff, contractor and community safety and the outage has been planned with the same focus.

EDF acted early to introduce stringent protective measures including social distancing, mandatory face masks, thermographic cameras and working from home, where possible, which have helped keep on-site rates consistently below that of the local population.

During the outage period additional support are required from contractors to carry out the work. Efforts have been made to source workers from as close to site as possible, reducing the need for them to stay in the area, but a number of local hotels, caravan parks and B&Bs will be hosting contractors.

While this will bring a financial boost following a year when the hospitality industry has been badly affected by travel restrictions, station management is committed to ensuring the safety of staff, contractors and the wider community while work takes place.

The start of the outage follows another strong year at the power station with it producing enough electricity in 2020 to power 2.6 million homes; that is more than the number of households in Scotland.

When it was taken offline Reactor 1 had been generating continuously for 865 days, the longest run ever for either of the station’s reactors.

Station Director, Tam Albishawi, said: “Torness has had another great year, producing enough low carbon electricity to power every home in Scotland. Our outage was meant to take place in July but we got to work early on postponing it so that better arrangements would be in place on site and nationally to manage Covid-19 when it started.

“Torness is designated as critical national infrastructure with workers classed as Category 1 key workers meaning they are able to travel during lockdown. We’ve been quietly helping to keep the lights on throughout the pandemic and this outage is part of the work we need to carry out to keep doing this.

“We take the risks around Covid-19 extremely seriously. We are continually monitoring the situation, have taken expert advice on the best way to manage additional workers at the station and have put in place a range of additional safeguards. These include the requirement for visiting contractors to have a negative test before entering site and investment in mass testing capability so we can test all staff and contractors weekly. This will help us pick up asymptomatic cases and prevent them from entering. We will be liaising with public health to ensure they have full visibility of what is happening at site.

”Neither of these measures, though, are a substitute for regular handwashing, social distancing and mask-wearing and these actions will be rigorously enforced on site. All the medical advice we are receiving supports this as the most effective action against Covid-19.”

Notes to editors 

  • The statutory outage is taking place on Reactor 1.
  • The reactor’s run of 865 days is the longest continuous run by either of the station’s reactors since the site started generating in 1988.
  • 12,000 separate pieces of work will be carried out.
  • Each outage takes two years of planning.
  • £25 million investment.
  • Takes place every 3 years on each reactor.
  • In 2020, Torness generated 9.8TWh of low carbon electricity. That is the enough electricity to power 2.64 million homes. The National Records for Scotland estimates there were 2.5 million households in Scotland in 2019.
  • The carbon avoided in 2020 is the equivalent of taking 1.58 million cars off Scotland’s roads. Transport Scotland figures show there are 2.5 million registered cars in Scotland (cars are 83% of the 2.99 million registered vehicles).