Hinkley Point B closure adds to strain on Britain’s power supplies

One of Britain’s six remaining nuclear power plants is set to close next week, adding to the strains on electricity supplies during Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Hinkley Point B, near Bridgwater in Somerset, will stop generating at 10am on Monday morning, 46 years after it first sent power to the grid.

The 1.1-gigawatt station, owned and run by EDF, was capable of producing enough energy for about 1.7 million homes a year but is closing due to age, with hairline cracks appearing in its graphite bricks.

Its closure has been long planned, but comes at a time of heightened concern over energy security as Russia restricts flows of gas to Europe.

EDF’s nuclear fleet in France is also producing far less than normal, with half of its reactors offline due to maintenance and corrosion problems, meaning it is less able to export electricity to neighbors, including Britain, as normal.

Worst-case modeling in Whitehall has shown up to six million British homes could face blackouts if Russia continues to strangle supplies to Europe.

National Grid last week said it does expect to be able to keep the lights on with plenty of buffer supplies, but that assumes it will be able to draw heavily on power supplies from the Continent.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, has asked coal-fired power stations to stay open longer than planned to provide back-up supplies this winter.

In May, colleagues suggested he was looking at whether Hinkley Point B could do so as well. However, EDF said it was by then too late to try and keep it open for winter, given the detailed safety case required.

Nuclear power supplies about 18pc of Britain’s electricity over the year, but this is set to fall with all but one of the aging fleet set to close this decade, raising further concerns about energy security in the long term.

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