Wednesday 9 June 2021
This week EDF energy has announced that they will not be resuming electricity generation at Dungeness B, but will instead commence the defueling of the power station later next year. This brings to an end the operating life of a power station that since 1983 has created thousands of jobs and supplied energy to millions of homes and businesses. This is a day that we knew would come as the station was already operating beyond its planned productive life. However, the end of power generation at Dungeness B does not cease the work of the nuclear industry on Romney Marsh, that will still continue for many years to come. The defueling and decommissioning of Dungeness B mark the final phase of its life, and one that will still support a great many local jobs. On Tuesday this week I discussed the plan with John Benn, the station director. He confirmed to me that the defueling will not commence until probably the end of 2022, and that the whole process will take about ten years from where we are today. During this period the majority of those working at Dungeness will still be needed onsite to manage this process. In the early 2030s, once defueling is completed Dungeness B will be handed over to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority who will at that point begin the decades long process of dismantling the site.
However, I believe that Dungeness can have a nuclear future beyond decommissioning and defueling. The new technology of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) would ideally suit a location like Dungeness. These have been developed by Rolls Royce, the concept is proven, and the first units could be ready to start supplying the grid by 2031. Unlike a traditional power station, they are constructed offsite in a factory and assembled at their location. Several SMRs could be in operation at the same site. I have already met with Rolls Royce, along with David Monk, the leader of Folkestone and Hythe District Council, to highlight the advantages of Dungeness.
The government has already acknowledged that existing nuclear sites, and particularly those with grid connections would be best place to accommodate SMRs. Dungeness scores positively on all of these points, and the SMRs could be placed on land that has already been decommissioned at Dungeness A, and is effectively a brown field site. I have written this week to the Secretary of State for Business and Energy, Kwasi Kwarteng highlighting the case for SMRs at Dungeness.
This week the Boundary Commission has published its initial recommendations for the new constituency boundaries for the next general election. There will now be an open consultation on the proposals, with the final boundaries due to be agreed by July 2023. There hasn’t been a change in the boundaries since the 2010 general election, and population growth in our district and in Ashford has resulted in a considerable redrawing of the boundaries in east Kent. You can view the proposals at the Boundary Commission website, and it’s important that you have your say. Unfortunately, as the Folkestone and Hythe constituency was already well above the top permitted number of voters, we will have to lose some areas to other constituencies. I would rather not have lost any of the communities I have been proud to serve these last eleven years, but unfortunately some changes will have to be made. It’s important though that we get these right.