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Sizewell B’s lifespan could be extended by 20 years to help solve energy crisis

The dome at Sizewell B. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The dome at Sizewell B. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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The lifespan of Suffolk’s Sizewell B nuclear power station could be extended by 20 years in a bid to help solve the UK’s energy crisis.

Jon Yates, acting station manager at Sizewell B nuclear power station. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTHJon Yates, acting station manager at Sizewell B nuclear power station. Picture: ANDREW PAPWORTH

The plant, which powers 2.2million homes, was originally built to last for 40 years when it first began generating power on February 14 1995.

MORE: Take a rare look behind the scenes at Sizewell B - Suffolk's nuclear power station

But with fossil fuels continuing to run out fast and renewables such as solar and wind not currently providing enough energy, nuclear power is seen by many as a way of plugging the gap.

Former Sizewell B station director Paul Morton, who is currently project lead at Sizewell C, has said the technology is essential to the country's energy needs - arguing: 'I don't believe the lights will stay on without it.'

MORE: 'The lights won't stay on without it' - row over Sizewell B director's stark warning on future of nuclear power

And EDF Energy has now revealed that staff have started the laborious process and evaluating each of the site's components - with a view to extending the whole station's life until 2055.

The move would come as well as, not instead of, Sizewell C - an even bigger power station which EDF Energy hopes to build next door.

The proposals for a new station have attracted much controversy in the community, but EDF Energy says: 'We're certainly going to need all of those assets to meet the demands of the country going forward.'

With Sizewell B contributing £20million a year to the local economy - and as much as £40m in a year when there is an outage period, when the plant stops generating power for round the clock maintenance - the move could have significant benefits.

In total about 800 people are employed at the site, 525 full-time EDF staff and the rest contractors, with many enjoying apprenticeship opportunities.

But with fears Sizewell C will put huge pressure on existing roads and housing infrastructure, an extension to the B station alongside that might also cause some concern.

MORE: Major power plant hub aims to create thousands of jobs

Even though the planned extension would not be confirmed until the mid-2020s, the plant has already started a 'a very detailed' analysis looking at the condition of each component and whether it needs replacing or renovating.

Those will include the pressurised water reactor (PWR), which creates nuclear energy by splitting atoms, and the two giant turbines which take that energy to create electricity.

The company says that every component is replaceable.

Acting station manager Jon Yates is clear that the plans for the extension show 'we're here for the long haul.'

Mr Yates concedes that: 'As we get more renewables, we need to operate in a different way.'

But he and others do not see that renewables can, at least yet, provide the volume of energy needed.

Adam Anderson, acting plant manager at Sizewell B, added: 'Nuclear power doesn't come small.

'There's always going to be a healthy challenge about the rights and wrong of nuclear power.

'However I see that as our responsibility to make sure that we're seen as a responsible operator to maintain that trust within the community.'

■ What do you think of plans to extend Sizewell B's life for another 20 years? Write, giving your full contact details, here.


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