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Wednesday, 8 November, 2000, 19:07 GMT
Nuclear plants win longer life
Dungeness nuclear power station
Dungeness B: repaired reactor set to reopen soon after repairs
Nuclear power stations at Hartlepool and Heysham are to be kept open until 2014, British Energy said on Wednesday, ahead of a report admitting a boiler leak and fuel feeding problems at other plants.

The electricity generator is planning to extend the plants' lives from 25 to 30 years following "detailed engineering reviews" by the company and outside consultants.

British Energy, which owns eight nuclear power stations and one coal-fired plant, revealed the move ahead of a statement showing a pre-tax loss of 56m for the half year to the end of September.

The firm, which stands to gain 29m a year from keeping the plants open, blamed falling electricity prices for much of the loss, which compared to a 55m profit for the same period in 1999.

Boiler leak

The firm also admitted that a boiler leak at the Hunterston nuclear power station, and design restrictions which hindered the uranium feed into the Torness plant, saw electricity output fall below forecasts.

"There were absolutely no safety implications," British Energy spokesman Bob Fenton told B News Online.

One of two reactors at Dungeness B, in Kent, is "in the final stages" of returning into service following repairs.

The firm said earnings for the full year were set to fall significantly below the pre-tax profit of 241m.

'Consolidation'

But the company, which has launched a productivity drive at its power stations, had predicted the year would be one of "consolidation", it said.

"Earlier this year I said that I expected this year to be challenging," chairman Sir John Robb said. "This has proved to be the case."

The leasing of a Canadian plant, which will see British Energy's generation portfolio rise 80% in two years, and productivity improvements leave the company "confident" of returning to profit, Wednesday's results statement said.

British Energy, privatised in 1996, was formed through the merger of Nuclear Electric and Scottish Nuclear 10 years ago.

It does not operate the ageing Magnox nuclear reactors, which are owned by BNFL.

British Energy shares closed 12.5p up at 175p on Wednesday in London.

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See also:

06 Sep 00 | Business
Powergen profits fall
31 Jul 00 | Business
Powering up the web
15 Jun 00 | Business
Nuclear power nightmare
28 Feb 00 | Business
Man behind BNFL's global ambitions
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British Energy's 432m present
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