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Pressure on UK nuclear energy strategy puts focus on Gloucestershire firms

Cracks in a Britain's nuclear reactor and reports of an $18 billion payment to a Japanese firm have turned up the heat on the UK's energy policy - and it all leads back to Gloucestershire.

Both stories relate to two of the UK's biggest nuclear energy suppliers - both of which have their UK headquarters in Gloucester.

Barnwood-headquartered EDF has confirmed cracks in the core of one of its two Hunterston B Scottish reactors will force it to shut it down earlier than planned.

All of which casts doubt on the longevity of the UK's other power plants. They all use the same bricks. And with nuclear reactors generating more than 20 per cent of Britain's electricity there is serious pressure on the need to bring a replacement online.

Even before French state-owned EDF Energy's announcement power stations generating almost half of the above 20 per cent were due to go off-line by 2025.

In a separate story reports claim the UK Government has agreed to arrange two trillion yen ($18.2 billion) in spending to Hitachi so it can go ahead and build its new nuclear power plant in Wales.

It would make the UK Government two-thirds investor in the project on the Isle of Anglesey (pictured above: an artist's impression), costs of which are expected to grow to three trillion yen, according to the Nikkei Asian Review news website.

The significance here in Gloucestershire, not just because it would help keep our lights on, is that Hitachi's project is being run here in the UK by Barnwood headquartered Horizon Nuclear Power, which employs and estimated 260-plus staff.

If it ever gets the go-ahead for its new power station that figure will grow considerably. The firm is currently recruiting on a more modest scale with that day in mind.

Back to EDF. The hairline cracks were found in graphite bricks in its Scottish plant. The bricks used in all 14 advanced gas-cooled nuclear reactors in the UK and drive seven out of the nation's eight plants.

And of course, EDF is the company building the UK's next nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset (pictured top).

"During operation, the graphite slowly loses weight. Weight-loss is potentially a life limiting condition for the reactors, although we believe that most of the AGRs will have their life limited by the progression of cracking," said a statement from the Office for Nuclear Regulation.

The funding plans for Horizon's future plans were reported by both Reuters and Japanese newspaper, The Mainichi.

According to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) it "did not recognise the reports" and would not comment on anything "commercially sensitive" anyway.

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