Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Wylfa granted two year reprieve

The Health and Safety Executive, which comprises the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency, has agreed that the current nuclear reactor in Wylfa can continue generating electricity for another two years. Wylfa first began generating electricity in 1971 and, following two previous extensions, was scheduled to close down in December this year -- it will now continue until sometime in 2012, preserving the 650 jobs at the plant and and estimated 500 more at various suppliers.

Needless to say this is excellent news for Anglesey -- it would be hugely embarrassing if the 'Energy Island' wasn't actually generating any energy! Most importantly this extension will now close the gap between the eventual decommissioning of the current reactor and the hopeful commencement of work on Wylfa B -- meaning that nuclear workers may not be forced to leave the island to seek other work, and local suppliers will be better placed to survive the wait until Wylfa B. Lets all now hope that the good nuclear news keeps coming.

UPDATE 10:27: With dreary predictability Albert Owen is now claiming credit for the extension. He tells the Daily Post, "I have led on this campaign and the news is good for Anglesey and good for the whole country".


Anonymous said...

A few points, Druid:

I was amused to hear someone rather senior from Wylfa claim on the news that they managed to obtain their extension because they looked after the plant very well. Do they have people somehow entering the pressure vessel to polish the steel welds and remove those awful neutron-embrittled stains, then?

I'm sure their case was sound, but remember, the majority of real-world comparisons with theory of neutron-irraditaed steel comes from samples taken at Trawsfynydd - which ceased operation at, not well beyond its design life after just 26 years; Wylfa is now 39 years old. Why was Traws closed so early? It is the same magnox type of plant. It seems the understanding of steels irradiated for this long is not very good, and relies on a lot of assumptions that may or may not be safe. If you start to read the literature on the topic, you soon realise how shaky the theoretical modelling can be.

Druid: You seem to have overlooked the generating capacity of the many wind turbines on the island. But oyu are right to imply that the 'Energy Island' concept really only means 'Nuclear Island' - Aled Morris Jones has made that clear in most of his utterings on the subject.

If Energy Island really means something, then why isn't the Council pursuing its newly-granted rights to make money from power generation? Too much hard work and no kudos from mixing with the big business boys?

Anonymous said...

Wylfa given two year extension - zero to do with AO and IWJ; everything to do with securing a "reliable" electricity supply.

Anonymous said...

"Wylfa given two year extension - zero to do with AO and IWJ"

Indeed. Politicians don't rule everyday life - business does. Not that politicians would ever admit to such a thing.

Groundhog Day said...

Anon @ 0240 (crikey do you ever sleep?) Very little electricity is generated by the wind turbines be they on the island or elsewhere, they have been shown to be about 30% efficient - and that is when the wind actually blows! As for any utterances from the numpty Aled Morris Jones, who ever listens to such a disaster of a councillor who has been suspended?

Anonymous said...

So the old plant has been given a 2-year extension. I still have the feeling that we will not see the German companies building a Wylfa B, the companies in question are under a great deal of financial pressure in at home that has left them very little leeway in overseas developments. Incidentally the German government have extended the lives of all their nuclear plants by 12 years which throws a bad light on the pathetic 2 years for Wylfa.

Anonymous said...

Groundhog Day.
As a Councillor Aled Morris Jones makes 10 of you, if only because of your abusive mentality.

Anonymous said...

It may well be a cause for concern when you realise that just about every country with nuclear power is partaking of the same extension exercise; this points to economic and political drivers rather than anything else. I suspect we are now entering the experimental phase of nuclear power, because nobody has operated power plants for this long before, so the effects are unknown. It might be safe, but then again, if it isn't...

Real world example:

Avatar said...

Some facts:

Of the twenty reactors built in the UK, there are only 4 still operating, being Wylfa and Oldbury (2 reactors at each site). Oldbury began supplying electricity to the grid in 1967 and Wylfa later in 1971. Wylfa is the largest of it’s type (pre-stressed concrete pressure vessel ) in Europe.

The original design life of both stations was twenty years; in January next year Wylfa life will have been extended by twenty years.

Trawsfynydd, Wylfa sister plant, began supplying electricity to the grid in 1965, and stopped in 1991 having exceeded it’s design life by 6 years.

To continue operation Wylfa needed the approval of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate of the Health and Safety Executive. For Safety Assessment Principles for Nuclear Facilities see:

In addition to the safety assessment, the operator of Wylfa, would have needed to decide whether it was economic viable to continue operation.

The oldest nuclear power station was Calder Hall, that began supplying electricity to the grid in 1956 and was closed in 2003, having produced electricity for nearly 47 years.

Anonymous said...

"the operator of Wylfa, would have needed to decide whether it was economic viable to continue operation."

Yes, it would. They seem very pleased that their organisation will now have £100 million more to put towards its decommissioning costs, although it'll cost hugely more than that altogether.

The only problem may be that it is always a temptation not to spend money on expensive, short-term servicing on an old reactor when the money will come in handy later.

Imagine that in the US, 20 year design-life stations already 40 years old are now seriously being considered for 80 year service lifetimes! It again points to financial pressures gaining an upper hand over caution and safety, and nobody has explained to me why engineers in the 60's said their creations were only meant for 20 years' service, whilst today's engineers say 'no, no, 80 years is fine'. The reason, it seems, is because they keep on pushing the limits, taking samples as they go, deciding that those vessels can be irradiated a bit more, a bit more, bang!

Avatar said...

Maybe I should have elaborated more.

Wylfa and Oldbury are 1st generation nuclear power stations and the last of this type still operating in the world. Because they where expensive to build and run, they had a design life of 20 years. As I said before the oldest 1st generation plant Calder Hall ran successively for 47 years.

However, the 2nd generation nuclear power plants have design life’s of 40 years, and 3rd generation power plants design life is 60 years. The first (3rd generation) advanced reactors have been operating in Japan since 1996.

In the USA some 2nd generation power plants have had a 20 year extension to their operating licence (60 years) and there is some talk currently another extension of 20 years allowing 80 years operation, but as yet no final decision has been taken.


Between the Lines said...

Well done Albert on your single handed scripting of the Wylfa Safety Case! Shame your grocers bill didn't get this far, or did you give up on it when the press coverage ran out post election?

IWJ - is that a blow or a boost to the economy of Anglesey, I forget?

Between the Lines said...

As the NDA may be dismantled and Nuclear privitised again (so I've heard) Does this mean Wylfa could finally do a deal for cheap electricity to Anglesey Aluminium without the dreaded "European State Aid Rules" casting a shadow for the next two years? Come to think of it, as the current government has stressed that new nuclear builds should not be subsidised, does this mean that Anglesey Aluminium could rise again like a phoenix from the bauxite ashes?

Little bit more sustainible than a cash bung, eh Albert?

Avatar said...

Between the lines - you heard wrong this from

"Nuclear Decommissioning Authority
Retain - Retain on the grounds of performing a technical function."

So the answer to your questions would be a 'no' and 'no'.

avatar said...

link again sorry

The Red Flag said...

8 sites will be announced this week by Chris Huhne:-

Hartlepool, County Durham
Heysham, Lancashire,
Hinkley Point, Somerset
Oldbury, Gloucestershire, Sellafield, Cumbria
Sizewell, Suffolk
Wylfa, Anglesey.

However here's the catch - these are sites where the energy companies can build if they want to, but there will be NO GOVERNMENT MONEY of any description - the energy companies must fund it all themselves, and they must put aside enough money to cover future de-commissioning. In addition, the sites must be built and operational no later than 2025 or they lose them.

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments re metallurgical effects and long term experiments. Still, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, maybe, the computer systems could go wrong. They'll be designed not to, a lot better designed than your average Window box, but the idea of a computer system getting a twenty year life extension (as is being done in the USA) is quite remarkable. There are few computer systems that last twenty years let alone sixty; probably the closest parallel I can think of is the computer systems that control aircraft engines, where custom built mid-1980s systems are still (just about) flying and maintainable, while stocks of spares (and people with the knowledge) are available. Maybe stuff like the National Air Traffic Control System too, but not sure.

The Magnox systems afaik have already had at least one computer system refurb (in the mid 1990s) but the companies involved in building those systems (and probably the people too) are long gone, as is the computer supplier (what happened to Syseca in Wythenshawe anyway?) It'll be the same in the USA. I hope the designers and builders left plenty of documentation (both "as designed" and "as built", since the two are rarely quite the same).

"nobody has explained to me why engineers in the 60's said their creations were only meant for 20 years' service, whilst today's engineers say 'no, no, 80 years is fine'."

I can make an educated guess. It's called "salary continuation planning" - you just support what the boss wants you to say. Like with the Ford Pinto. Like the Shuttle engineers eventually did. Like the Nimrod folks did. Simples. Two disasters and one scandal, two big inquiries, seemingly nothing learned.

Prometheuswrites said...

These two articles may throw some light on the governments strategy for energy production.
"UK government axes Severn Estuary barrage plan"
"Wylfa among locations chosen for new nuclear stations"