New lease of life for Heysham

The port of Heysham and power station.
The port of Heysham and power station.

Plans are underway to prolong the life of Heysham’s two nuclear power stations.

Heysham 1 was due to close in 2019, and Heysham 2 in 2023, but owners and operators EDF says it could now be looking at a further seven years of life for each reactor.

Alan Oulton, station director of Heysham 2, said: “Both Heysham 1 and Heysham 2 have important roles in producing low carbon electricity for the UK.

“Together they produce around five per cent of the nation’s electricity and have done so safely for the past 30 years or so.

“We will be working with a series of key contractors as we look to extend the working lives of these two sites.

“Heysham 1 is looking at extending beyond its existing ‘lifetime’ of 2019 and Heysham 2 beyond 2023 - although decisions on these would be made in the future.”

A spokesman for EDF, which employs 1,500 people at its Heysham site, said a final decision for Heysham 1 would be made by 2016, and 2020 for Heysham 2, but the intention is to extend the lives of the two reactors.

David Morris, MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale said the plans for the life extensions of the two reactors was good news.

He said: “The nuclear industry employs a significant number of people directly at Heysham 1 and Heysham 2 and indirectly in the wider economy.

“EDF also own the land adjacent to the existing power stations and the government has approved that land as the site for a new nuclear build.”

Concern has been raised however by a Lancaster architect, who is urging EDF to shut down the operation early for safety reasons.

Mo Kelly suggests the French energy company should abandon plans for Heysham 3 on moral grounds, and also because Lancaster will have only one full time fire engine by 2016.

Ms Kelly, who visited the power station recently, refers to a document published in 1990 by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), who commissioned a report into the safety of nuclear installations in the UK.

Two sites, one of them Heysham and the other Hartlepool, were named as too close to centres of population for effective evacuation in the event of a significant radioactive release.

The report said that “serious consideration be given to the early closure of these stations”.

Ms Kelly said there was a 10 mile “danger zone” radius around the power station, with a population of around 180,000.

She also said that the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011, had galvanised her into speaking out.

A recent demonstration at the power station – No More Fukushima – highlighted issues including rising sea levels.

Ms Kelly said: “The nuclear industry is doing a huge amount of work to put in place improved safety measures, but when you see the water pretty high up on the sea wall at the power station, alarm bells start ringing.

“The more worrying concern is the cuts to services.

“I’m concerned about a report that came out that named Heysham Power Station as one of two in the UK that was too close to population.

“When you start taking out things like fire engines, there’s obviously a concern.”

A spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service said that if a major incident did occur then resources from across the region would be mobilised.

He added: “Distribution of emergency (firefighting) resources is always going to be a vexed question, because any redistribution of resources or apparent reduction in any locality is bound to attract criticism from some quarters.

“Last year’s Emergency Cover Review, which was widely and comprehensively publicised, resulted in the decision by the Lancashire Combined Fire Authority to replace Lancaster’s second whole-time fire engine and crew with a Retained Duty Service fire engine and crew during 2016/17, so there will actually be no reduction in fire cover there.”

Mr Oulton said that there were currently no concers about the safety of Heysham Power Station.

He added: “As a responsible company we are always looking at ways to improve every aspect of all we do on site and although we have no significant concerns at present and certainly no safety concerns regards our sea defences, all our operations are open to scrutiny from our many independent regulators such as the Environment Agency and the Office for Nuclear Regulation.”