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Nuclear Power in the UK: Scary Scenario Looms

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At the end of last month, EDF called time on the Hunterston nuke in Scotland.  It’s been plagued with cracks in the graphite core, and not generating properly for quite a while now.  They’d been hoping to nurse a few more years output from it.

Now obviously, if the UK power system has been managing without it for all that time, it isn’t needed per se.  BUT – it’s the same design as all the other currently-operation UK nukes, except for Sizewell B.  A grim example of “concentration risk” …  Could we do with any of them?  They are all being nursed along, with successive extensions having been announced to their lifespans over the years.  

EDF, of course, has every incentive to squeeze the last drop from them, and not just for the electricity sales-revenues.  Decommissioning is very expensive, and as I wrote in an earlier story, relating to the North Sea oil & gas sector: 

… abandoning North Sea platforms comes at a huge capital cost: so every day’s delay in recognising the inevitable is money in the bank. And every small thing that can be done to eke out its life is an effort well spent.

The range of options for a nuclear operator is not as great as for an oil company (safety considerations):  EDF doesn’t have available to it any real parallels to the strategy adopted in the North Sea case I related there.   

Furthermore, EDF is not exactly flush with money ..!  -  if it’s bad for them in the UK, their French decommissioning liabilities are astronomical, as we’ve been noting periodically since this blog first began.  There’s a rather obvious scenario where this could get extremely awkward.



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