The world’s last surviving Magnox nuclear power plant has been granted a one-year life extension and will keep generating electricity until December next year.
The current lifetime extension is the latest and final in a series as the Wylfa on Anglesey power plant, north Wales, was originally supposed to be turned off in 2010. However, the regulators permitted it to continue generating electricity after the operator demonstrated the plant meets all safety requirements.
The plant is the last in the world running a UK-developed 490 MW Magnox nuclear reactor. The UK built 11 power stations, equipped with a total of 26 magnox units and, in addition, sold one reactor to Japan and another to Italy.
With the exception of Wylfa, all existing magnox power plants have already been phased out.
"This will be Wylfa's final period of generation. After December 2015, we will follow in the footsteps of other Magnox sites and begin to defuel the reactor which will take up to three years," said Stuart Law, Wylfa site director.
The extension will deliver additional income to the taxpayer of up to £785m since the station's original scheduled closure date in 2010.
"We are pleased that Wylfa's extended generation will allow us to maximise income from generation for the site's owner, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), and the UK taxpayer, and also provide another 15 months of opportunities and continued development for staff,” Law said. “A lot of people contributed and worked hard on the PSR and this result is a real credit to them.”
Wylfa’s first reactor, built in 1963, was retired in 2012. Reactor 2, launched in 1971, is still producing power, partly burning fuel transferred from the decommissioned Reactor 1. The two reactors once powered almost half of Wales.
Developed in the 1950s, the magnox reactors are pressurised reactors fuelled by natural uranium, cooled by carbon dioxide and graphite moderated. The name magnox comes from the alloy used to clad the fuel rods inside the reactor.
At its time, Magnox reactors were considered very safe due to their simple design, low power density and the use of a gas coolant.