EDF Energy shut down the two nuclear reactors at Dungeness B power station for two months in May 2013 whilst improvements were made to flood defences around the power station.
This upgrading of flood defences does not mean the site was unsafe at any time. Before this work, Dungeness B was deemed safe to operate by the independent nuclear safety regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, who considered that the site was protected from events which would occur one in every 1,000 years.
Following events at Fukushima, EDF Energy undertook further studies aimed at ensuring the sites were safe – even in case of events whose probability was as low as once in every 10,000 years. EDF Energy then informed the regulator that more work was necessary to meet this higher standard and that temporary measures could be installed within a week. The regulator accepted this proposal. It is important to know that the regulator can shut down the power station immediately if it has any safety concerns.
During work to complete a number of flood improvements, EDF Energy conservatively took the decision to take both reactors offline for two months. Work to build a new flood defence wall around the site is due to be completed this month and additional measures are due to be completed later this year. In addition the company is continuously updating and improving the plant to ensure it is operating safely.
The recent weather has had no impact on operations at Dungeness B. The last weather disruption happened during the St Jude storm in October 2013 when power lines supplying the station were hit by debris and the reactors were safely shut down.
Communicating events with the community and media
EDF Energy understands how important it is to tell people about what we do. It is not true to suggest that there was an attempt not to communicate events at Dungeness B.
Local media, community groups and stakeholders were informed about the flood defence work and the reactors being shut down during this period. EDF Energy also informs the media every time one of our nuclear reactors is taken offline and again when it comes back on. And we publish plant information online every 24 hours.
We know that those living closest to our power stations have the greatest interest and we aim to be visible and open in a variety of ways, including regular community meetings, monthly reports from the station director, letters to our community groups and regular visits from all ages and backgrounds including schools, special interest groups, politicians and other key stakeholders. Last year we opened visitor centres at each of our nuclear sites and have welcomed 26,000 visitors in 2013, many of whom went on to site for guided tours.
Dungeness B station director Martin Pearson said: “We are never complacent and constantly look for ways to improve safety at Dungeness B. Safety always overrides any commercial considerations and we only operate with the approval of the independent nuclear regulator. We decided to raise standards even further following Fukushima, but that does not mean there was a greater risk to the power station.
“Maintaining strong links with our local communities and others who have an interest in our nuclear operations is critically important and we work hard at being as open as possible. I invite people to come to our visitor centre, see the power station and ask any questions they have about its operation.”