UK like France likely unable to pay for new nuclear reactors may look at license extensions

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The UK’s ageing nuclear reactors look likely to have their lives extended beyond the mid-2020s as the country looks to tackle a looming energy gap, energy minister Charles Hendry said.  “By the early 2020s [almost the] whole nuclear fleet will be closed down,” he said. “Some may get a lifetime extension – that is entirely possible.”

The news that Britain, which pioneered nuclear technology in the 1960s and 1970s, can no longer cost-effectively build its own nuclear stations will likely cause other nations looking to expand their nuclear power generation capacity to re-evaluate their financial benefit as well.  Germany, while ridiculed by nations looking to boost their nuclear capacity, has been the unsung hero in Europe as France, a notoriously nuclear-reliant nation, has seen its aging nuclear fleet incapacitated by the winter weather and been forced to purchase energy from Germany to make up for the lack of power supply.

Last month France estimated prolonging the lifespan of it’s 58 reactors would cost up to €860m per reactor, compared to €5bn for building new, next-generation reactors.  The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said it will cost £50bn to build the UK’s new nuclear fleet.  A spokeswoman for the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) told BusinessGreen plants would apply for an extension when they reach the end of their scheduled lifetime. But she added that ideally the government should not rely on extensions and should accelerate the construction of new plants instead.

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