BRITAIN'S most productive nuclear power station was switched off yesterday, despite warnings that its closure could trigger yet another increase in energy bills.
Releasing a huge plume of steam to mark the occasion, Somerset's Hinkley Point B split its last atom after 46 years of power generation.
Experts warn that decommissioning Hinkley, which contributed about 3 per cent of the UK's power, means we will have to burn more gas to generate electricity.
Henry Edwards, of energy specialists S&P Global, told the BBC: 'If you take a generator out of the market that's fully paid off, and doesn't have the gas price premium that replacement power will have or the carbon cost then, yes, the wholesale price will rise.'
Power firm EDF, which owns the plant, said: 'Hinkley B has reliably produced zerocarbon electricity for over 46 years, more than 15 years longer than envisaged.'
Another reactor at the site, Hinkley Point A, was switched off in 2000. EDF -
which is 85 per cent owned by the French government - is building a replacement, Hinkley Point C, which is expected to cost £25 billion and will open in 2027.
Hinkley B's life cannot be extended any further due to cracks in its graphite core, described by energy experts as an 'end-oflife condition'.
For the next three years, teams at Hinkley will get the plant ready to be decommissioned, including removing the remaining nuclear fuel from the reactors and transporting it to Sellafield for storage.
Jonathon Porritt, former head of Friends of the Earth, said of the plant: 'The waste that it's generated over the last 46 years will live on for a very, very long time'.
'The price of gas will rise'