Nuclear power station reactor shut down

By David GreenBRITISH Nuclear Fuels has been left counting the cost after it was announced one of the twin reactors at the Sizewell A nuclear power station will be out of action for months.

By David Green

BRITISH Nuclear Fuels has been left counting the cost after it was announced one of the twin reactors at the Sizewell A nuclear power station will be out of action for months.

The shutdown, because of a major fault in a transformer, will cost the part state-owned company hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost income from electricity sales.

A new transformer is being manufactured to replace the existing unit at a cost thought to be in the region of £1million.


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But it will not be installed and operational before both reactors are due to be shut down in August for a routine “outage” - during which the whole plant will be thoroughly checked over - that may last until the end of the year.

The problem at Sizewell A follows the shutdown of the Sizewell B reactor last year, at a cost to British Energy of several millions of pounds, after suspect welds were found during an inspection of the station's cooling system.

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The decision to order the new transformer at Sizewell A has been taken despite the fact the power station is due to reach the end of its lifetime in 2006.

The company said the decision had been taken because income from electricity generation would far outweigh the cost of the new transformer.

Robin Thornton, spokesman for Sizewell A, said the prolonged shutdown of the reactor would be a financial blow to the company, but could not be avoided.

“Refurbishing the existing transformer could be a long job and it was decided to order a new one. It was an easy decision because the cash flow from the reactor when it is operational far outweighs the cost of the transformer,” he added.

Charles Barnett, chairman of the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign, said he was always relieved to hear at least one of the reactors had been closed down because it made the area safer.

“The longer it is closed down, the more relieved I will be, but, as a taxpayer, I resent having to finance the purchase of expensive new plant at a power station which is due to close in two years' time,” he added.

The other reactor at Sizewell A was shut down for two days earlier this month due to a lightning strike of the grid connection, but is now operating normally.

david.green@eadt.co.uk

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