* EDF to close Dungeness B ahead of schedule
* Power station has been offline since 2018
* Industry, government say new nuclear is needed (Adds UK government, union statement, detail on new reactor projects, adds bullet points)
June 8 (Reuters) - EDF Energy has decided to begin removing fuel from Britain’s Dungeness B nuclear power station in Kent, moving forward decommissioning it had planned for 2028.
The plant’s two reactors have been offline since 2018 due to an extended outage in which EDF has been managing a range of “unique, significant and ongoing technical challenges” not found in other British reactors, it said on Monday.
“As a result, EDF has taken a decision not to restart the plant but to move it into the defuelling stage,” it said.
EDF previously said it might move forward a plan to decommission the 1.1 gigawatt (GW) plant from 2028. It has been in operation since 1983.
“EDF has had to make a hard decision – but it is the right one. It gives our teams, our community and our business a clear understanding of the future,” John Benn, station director at Dungeness B, said in a statement.
The GMB union representing workers at the plant said it was aware of plans to speed up decommissioning but expressed surprise at how quickly the decision had been taken and called for assurances that workers’ jobs are secure.
Defuelling is the first stage of decommissioning a nuclear power station and a process which involves continued use of EDF staff and specialist supply chain companies, EDF said.
The retirement of Dungeness B underscores the urgency of investing in new nuclear capacity to hit net zero emissions, said Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association.
The closure would have no bearing on Britain’s energy supply, a spokesperson for the UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said.
“The government is committed to the future of nuclear energy, and is looking to reach a final investment decision on at least one nuclear power station by the end of this Parliament, alongside harnessing new nuclear technology,” the spokesperson added.
EDF will decommission four reactors by mid-2022.
The firm is currently building a 3.2 GW nuclear plant at Hinkley Point C in Somerset, southwest England, and planning another in Suffolk. (Reporting by Nora Buli; editing by David Gregorio and Jason Neely)