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Wednesday, 1 December, 1999, 12:41 GMT
Nuclear power station to close
Bradwell uses old-style Magnox fuel rods

One of the UK's oldest nuclear power stations is to close in 2002.

British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) confirmed on Wednesday that its Bradwell power station, which employs 350, will shut down in just over two years.

The reactor, on the Essex coast, started operations in 1962.

It was licensed to operate until 2002, but there had been hopes that work to update the reactor would allow it to extend its licence until 2012.

State-owned BNFL, which owns the station, said the decision to close Bradwell had come after an in-depth study showed the multi-million pound investment needed to keep it operating past 2002 could not be justified.

BNFL has scrapped a bid to extend Bradwell's license
Manager Peter Wright said: "We have always said that it would be an economic decision which ultimately led to Bradwell's closure.

"That time has, sadly, been identified in just over two years' time."

He said he was confident the plant could have met safety regulations to allow it to continue after it licence expired, but that the cost of producing power would have been uneconomical.

Staff numbers will remain steady until 2002, after which the first stage of decommissioning will take place.

This will involve a two to three-year programme to remove radioactive fuel rods from the reactors.

Mr Wright said the rods would be taken to Sellafield, in Cumbria, for reprocessing - a practice which already takes place for spent rods at Bradwell.

Unions 'disappointed'

About 200 to 250 staff are expected to be needed for the defuelling stage, following which a "handful" would remain for the care and maintenance phase.

Bradwell is currently shut down for inspection and repair work, and BNFL hopes to return the plant to service over the next two months.

Unions said they had been consulted about the future of Bradwell and were not surprised by the development.

Dougie Rooney, national officer for the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union, said: "We are disappointed, although we recognise that a thorough investigation into Bradwell's future has been carried out.

"We are convinced that it would be uneconomic to keep the station open beyond 2002. However we do want to see extra investment in other Magnox power stations and hope that Bradwell's workforce can be redeployed."

Bradwell contains two first-generation Magnox reactors - the earliest design built in the UK.

This type of reactor uses uranium fuel encased in tubes of magnesium alloy called Magnox.

There have been concerns that the older-style reactors could become unsafe with age.

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