Power supply fears prompt call to keep Kilroot open

Kilroot electricity station in Co Antrim was due to be closed later this month
Kilroot electricity station in Co Antrim was due to be closed later this month

Kilroot power station should be kept open because of a energy reduction at a nuclear power plant in Scotland, an MLA has said.

Roy Beggs called for the retention of the Co Antrim station after it emerged that there were cracks in the reactor at Hunterston B plant in Ayrshire.

Electricity generation from Hunterston B could fall by 40% this year after the cracks were discovered. A planned inspection of the graphite bricks that make up the core of Reactor 3 in March uncovered new “keyway root cracks”.

Kilroot was facing closure in 2024 for environmental reasons related to its coal-burning technology, but its owner AES said earlier this year that it will in fact close at the end of this month. The closure will lead to the loss of 270 jobs.

The cracks at Hunterston B were found to be developing at a slightly higher rate than anticipated, operator EDF Energy revealed.

Mr Beggs, an Ulster Unionist MLA for East Antrim, said he is asking the utility regulator and SONI, the electricity system operator for Northern Ireland, the implications for the security of electricity supply in Northern Ireland.

He has called for a rethink of the cross-border Integrated Single Electricity Market (I-SEM) process which will result in the closure of Kilroot.

“The discovery of cracks and the decision to cease generating from the 485MW reactor 3 at Hunterston nuclear power station could have implications for availability of power for the Moyle Interconnector during peak winter demand,” Mr Beggs said.

“The current model used by SONI assumes that a minimum of 225MW of electricity would be transmitted under the Irish Sea along the Moyle Interconnector cables, to Northern Ireland.”

He added: “Any such changes to SONI’s electricity availability assumptions would add further risks of black outs in Northern Ireland following the end of electricity generation from Kilroot’s main turbines.

“As a result of software problems, SONI has already decided to delay I-SEM to the October 1 2018.

“The Hunterston B power station was originally due to close in 2011 and had then been reassessed to continue operations until 2023. EDF Energy have taken the Nuclear Reactor 3 out of service and in a statement said ‘We expect the unit to return to service before the end of 2018’.

“The ability to reliably generate electricity from Hunterston B’s Reactor 3 must now be in doubt. I have written to both the utility regulator and SONI asking that they reassess the I-SEM assumptions and outcome which were originally to result in the closure of Kilroot power station from the May 23 2018.

“Once generating capacity is lost from the main turbines at Kilroot, it will be very difficult and may prove too expensive to bring them back into service.

“I once again call on the regulator to intervene with this flawed I-SEM process which would result in the loss of 514MW of electricity generated at Kilroot Power Station, before it’s too late.”