The world’s oldest operating nuclear power station, Oldbury near Bristol, finally stopped producing electricity today, 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 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.
Oldbury and Wylfa are both named as potential sites for new reactors in the Government’s Nuclear National Policy Statement. The Horizon consortium has said that it intends to build at least 6GW of new nuclear capacity at those sites, providing a real sense of optimism for the future of nuclear in both Gloucestershire and North Wales.
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.”
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.