Feats of engineering prowess and endurance in the nuclear industry are well worth highlighting, and this is most certainly one of them. So as Heysham 1 nuclear power station enters her fourth decade, let us celebrate the enormous contribution of one of the UK’s longest serving green energy assets.
Heysham 1, alongside her fellow AGR stations, represents the best low-carbon assets in this country’s history. The numbers speak for themselves: over four decades she has generated 237 TWh of low-carbon electricity, the equivalent of powering every home in Lancashire for more than 93 years. It’s also saved well over 80 million tonnes of carbon emissions (that number is likely to be much higher if coal use during her lifetime is taken into account) – the equivalent of taking almost 40 million cars off UK roads for a year.
The station has helped give the North West some of the cleanest power in the UK. Last year, the region had the second greenest regional grid, with an average carbon intensity of 71g CO2/kWh, well within the 2030 UK target of 50g – 100g. Only the North East ranked higher, helped by the clean power produced by Heysham’s sister station, Hartlepool, which also turns 40 this year. That regional success shows the path to energy security and net zero for the UK: nuclear power working together with renewables to provide a robust clean energy mix.
It is also no exaggeration to say that we still depend on her to keep the lights on. From just a tenth of a square mile, she generates enough clean electricity to power a staggering two million homes. In Grid’s terms, the station provides 1,060 MW of clean generating capacity: there were many times last winter when margins on the grid dropped below 500 MW. We needed her output last winter, and she came through. We will need it again this coming winter, and the next one and the one after that.
Heysham 1 has been a bulwark of our energy security for four decades, long past her original design life, but by the skill of our nuclear workforce, she has another couple years left in her. Extra years of Heysham 1 means lower bills, lower gas imports and less carbon. By our count, it’s nearly 1.5 billion cubic metres less of gas imports and 2 million tonnes less of CO2. We’ll take that.
So congratulations to the wonderful site team and everyone at EDF who has kept her running: you’ve done a service to the nation, and we are in your debt.
Happy 40th Birthday to Heysham 1 Nuclear Power Station!
Lincoln Hill is the NIA’s Director of Policy and External Affairs.