Two UK nuclear power plants that were shut down amid safety fears may not restart until late December, EDF Energy has warned, heightening the risk of blackouts this winter.
The French energy giant closed its reactors at Hartlepool and Heysham 1 in Lancashire in early August after discovering “unexpected cracking” in a boiler unit. It said at the time that safety checks could take two months.
But on Thursday it announced that the reactors, which produce enough power to meet more than 4pc of winter demand, would only be returned to service gradually between the end of October and late December.
“Dates for returning the stations to service depend on the findings and completion of the inspections,” EDF Energy said.
The delay leaves Britain facing the first months of winter with significantly less power capacity than had been expected to help keep the lights on.
Fears that the reactors’ restart could be delayed emerged earlier this week when National Grid announced it was resorting to emergency measures to bolster power supplies by paying mothballed and idle power stations to fire up. Grid said at the time that EDF’s investigations “may have an impact” on plant availability this winter.
The confirmed nuclear delay compounds a situation that is already far bleaker than had been expected just a few months ago due to the partial closure of two fire-damaged coal power plants and the planned closure of one unprofitable gas power plant.