The deal, negotiated by the government with EDF and signed on Wednesday, will save the taxpayer an estimated £1bn.
The agreement means EDF will aim to shorten the time it takes to remove the fuel from the power stations as they come offline, before working closely with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to transfer ownership of the stations to the NDA.
The NDA, a public body established in 2004 to oversee the cleanup of the UK’s nuclear legacy, is decommissioning older Magnox stations. According to the government its expertise and the economies of scale of working on these and the AGR nuclear reactors combined, will ensure the long-term clean-up of these sites is done more efficiently.
The UK’s seven AGR power stations, which have 15 reactors between them, have long been scheduled to reach the end of their working lives on a rolling basis by 2030, with EDF announcing that the first, Dungeness B power station, has now closed.
The closure of the two Dungeness B units brought the number of commercial reactors in operation in the UK to 13. If remaining closures go ahead as planned only the two new EPR units under construction at Hinkley Point C will be operating in 2035.
The government said their closure will not affect the UK’s energy supply, as energy from renewables has more than quadrupled since 2010. The UK government has also committed to making a final investment decision on at least one large-scale nuclear power station by the end of this parliament, alongside harnessing new and advanced nuclear technology.
The agreement reached with EDF does not include the single-unit Sizewell B station, which uses a different technology and is scheduled to continue operating until 2035.