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Oldbury Power Station shuts down after four decades of safe generation
29 February 2012
The world's oldest operating nuclear power station, Oldbury near Bristol, finally stopped producing electricity at 11am on 29th February 2012, after 44 years of safe generation.
Since it opened in 1967, Oldbury's twin reactors have generated 137.5 TWh of electricity: enough to power one million home for over 20 years.
The historic closure marks the start of a new phase in the site's life as preparations get under way to start the decommissioning process, which will, over the decades to come, include removal of the spent fuel, management of the waste and eventual demolition of the buildings.
Reactor One's shut-down today follows the closure last June of Reactor Two. Originally scheduled to stop generating in 2008, the site's owner, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), took the decision to extend Oldbury's operating life following reviews with the regulators. The site is operated by Magnox Ltd, which is owned by EnergySolutions.
Oldbury is one of 11 nuclear power stations in the UK that were based on the pioneering Magnox design, developed during the post-war years and the first in the world to generate electricity on a commercial scale. Ten are now closed and in various stages of decommissioning, with only Wylfa on Anglesey still operating.
The decision to shut down Reactor One was taken in November 2011 in conjunction with the regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), after a review concluded that continued operation would no longer be economically viable.
Dr Brian Burnett, NDA Head of Programmes, said: "Oldbury has a long and proud history of safely generating electricity. Our thanks go to the Magnox workforce, who have been extremely committed to maximising the plant's generating life, ensuring it was safely able to continue past its original planned closure date. Its income has been extremely valuable in supporting our mission to decommission the UK's first generation of civil nuclear sites."
During its extended operating life, since the end of 2008, Oldbury has generated over 7.4 TWh of electricity, worth an estimated £350 million to the taxpayer and saving around 3.5 million tonnes of carbon from being released into the atmosphere."
Charles Hendry, Minister of State for Energy, said: "Oldbury has been producing low-carbon power for four decades now, making a significant contribution to meeting the UK's electricity demand. Plans for a new nuclear power station adjacent to the current site are an encouraging sign that Oldbury will play a role in our energy future too.
"The safe operation of the plant is a testament to the hard work of its staff. As attention turns to the decommissioning and clean-up of the site, it will continue to remain a vital source of employment in the local area."
Dr Phil Sprague, Oldbury Site Director, said: "Oldbury has been a terrific success story for the nuclear industry. We have generated safe, carbon free electricity for over 44 years which is a remarkable achievement when you consider that the original plant design life was just 25 years.
"The plant has had a number of enhancements over the years, but this success story is largely due to the excellence of the staff that have operated the plant for those 44 years. This fantastic record is one that all the staff both past and present can be rightly proud. Today marks a safe and dignified end to the generation of electricity at Oldbury.
"Our main focus for the coming months is to now prepare our staff and the plant for the defueling of both reactors whilst continuing to maintain the very high standards for safety that we have created here.
"Ongoing support for our staff as we make these changes will be key for the rest of this year." Richard Waite, President, UK and Europe, at EnergySolutions, said: "My congratulations go to all staff at Oldbury, past and present, who have contributed to the site's amazing achievements over the past 45 years. EnergySolutions are proud to have been part of that journey – including the site's recent life extensions – and we look forward to working with all at Magnox in the coming years as the focus shifts to safe defueling, decommissioning and clean-up."
Oldbury was the first nuclear site to have a concrete pressure vessel and is the world's oldest operating nuclear reactor. During its lifetime, Oldbury has starred in several television shows, including Doctor Who and Blake 7, and even featured on Top of the Pops when the group Slade recorded a performance for the show on the pile cap.