N-plant sets new 'pit-stop' record

THE Sizewell B nuclear power station has set a new record for the quickness of its refuelling shutdown.

David Green

THE Sizewell B nuclear power station has set a new record for the quickness of its refuelling shutdown.

The reactor has to be shut down about every 18 months to allow spent uranium fuel to be removed and new fuel installed. At the same time, essential maintenance and repairs are carried in what is the equivalent to a motor racing pit-stop.

British Energy loses about three quarters of a million pounds a day in revenue for electricity sales each day the reactor is not operating.

Sizewell B, which supplies enough electricity to power two million homes, operated continuously for a record 516 days, from October 21, 2006 to March 20 2008, before coming off-line and completing its refuelling “outage” in 25 days, the shortest in the station's 13-year history.

More than 700 contracting staff were on site for the outage, in addition to the power station's normal workforce of 525.

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Brian Dowds, Sizewell B station director, said: “We continue to demonstrate that modern nuclear reactors such as Sizewell B are safe, reliable forms of low carbon electricity, which is hugely important to the UK.

“This has been very much a team effort. The focus and dedication shown by the staff at Sizewell B, British Energy and our many partner companies has been extremely pleasing.”

He added: “Refuelling outages are always busy periods for us and for the area so I thank our neighbours in the local community for their support and patience over the last few months.

“We can now focus on safely providing around 3% of the UK's electricity needs while starting to make preparations for our tenth refuelling outage in some 18 months time.”

The station is also celebrating its safety performance after gaining the Presidents Award from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), following 10 consecutive gold medals for excellent and improving industrial safety performance.

British Energy staff at Sizewell B have gone 679 days since the last “lost time accident” and over 1,397 days since a lost time accident by any of BE's contractors at the station.

A lost time accident is an absence of one day or more resulting from an injury sustained at work.

“While this excellent electricity generation performance was being achieved, we also managed to gain a safety award which proves the point that the safest power stations are also the highest performing,” Mr Dowds said.

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