Ayrshire power plant reactor offline raises questions around replacement for coal plants

With one out of the four nuclear reactors at the Hunterston B nuclear power plant in Ayrshire remaining offline until the end of the year, after 31 new cracks were discovered in the graphite blocks forming its core, it raises questions about investment in alternatives to coal fired plants, which are due to be phased out by 2025.

Hunterston is currently operated by EDF Energy, who announced in May 2018 that the reactor could remain offline for months given the unforeseen rate at which the cracks are expanding. They expect the power output to drop by 3TWh as a result of the time offline.

Eight coal fired plants remain in the UK, after three closed their doors in 2016. From 2025 an emission limit will be in place, forcing the remaining plants to close, or be fitted with carbon capture technology.

Since the new announcement about the 2025 deadline was made in 2013, coal generated power has plummeted by 80%. Ironically though, investment in Combined Cycle Gas Turbines (CCGT) is hugely lacking due to economic conditions, meaning the UK’s alternatives to replace coal generated power by 2025 is still uncertain.

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