The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) today said it was “content for the plants to continue to operate” as long as they pass safety tests.
French-owned EDF, which has eight nuclear power stations in the UK, has previously said it wanted to extend the life of Torness for at least five years beyond the scheduled closure date of 2023. The moves to keep the plants open come after UK Government plans for a new generation of nuclear power stations were thrown into disarray when one of the two leading consortia bidding to build new plants pulled out.
German-owned RWE npower and E.ON decided not to go ahead with developing nuclear plants in north Wales and Gloucestershire, citing the political fallout from the Fukushima nuclear leak in Japan caused by last year’s earthquake and tsunami.
EDF said it remained committed to building new nuclear reactors, but a spokesman said: “Extending the lives of our nuclear power stations makes absolute sense in terms of filling a short-term energy need while the country rightly continues towards aggressive decarbonisation targets.”
Earlier this month, one of the two reactors at Torness automatically shut down. EDF said a component in protection equipment had failed and assured the public there had been “no health or environmental impacts”.
In June last year, both reactors had to shut down after jellyfish clogged up inlets for the water used for cooling. EDF was later told by the regulator to review its safety systems.
As well as Torness, EDF has nuclear reactors at Dungeness in Kent, Hartlepool in north east England, Sizewell in Suffolk, Hinkley Point in Somerset, two at Heysham in Lancashire and Hunterston in Ayrshire. Only Sizewell is currently due to continue in use after 2023.
A spokeswoman for ONR confirmed staff were engaged with EDF on “the extension of the operational lifetime of their existing fleet of reactors”.
She said: “This has included reviews of the plants to establish where improvements could be made in monitoring plant and material performance and identifying where further work is necessary on the impact of ageing.
“ONR is content for the plants to continue to operate subject to satisfactory periodic safety reviews being carried out, and the results from routine maintenance, inspection and testing continue to support the agreed plant safety case.”