The decision by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate yesterday sparked an angry reaction from environmentalists, who say Bradwell is one of the dirtiest nuclear reactors in the UK.
Nuclear Electric said that Bradwell, opened in 1962, would carry on until 1998. The company, which generates one-fifth of the electricity in England and Wales, expects to apply for extensions to more of its seven ageing Magnox plants and is spending pounds 80m on upgrades to win the approval of the inspectorate.
Friends of the Earth attacked the reprieve. It said local residents at Bradwell received higher doses of external radiation than recommended by National Radiological Protection Board.
Patrick Green, a spokesman for the environmentalist group, said: 'The Nuclear Installations Inspectorate appears to be ignoring the radiation issue. This decision is more about helping Nuclear Electric than protecting people.'
Nuclear Electric, which is owned by the Government, rejected allegations that the plant was in any way unsafe. A spokesman said it had been given a clean bill of health to stay open for 40 years but its economic lifetime expired in 1998.
The company said that if Bradwell carried on for six more years as planned it would save the emission of up to 10 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, a major cause of the greenhouse effect.
Plans to extend the life of the Magnox plants have also been attacked by British Coal, which faces sharply contracting orders from the electricity industry. Expansion of Nuclear Electric's operations decreases the available market for coal, already under threat from gas and imported fuel.
Critics of Nuclear Electric also say that Magnox extensions exacerbate the problem of over-capacity in electricity generation which, official figures show, could reach 60 per cent by 1995.
In addition to the Magnox plant, Nuclear Electric also has five advanced gas-cooled reactors between four and 16 years old. It hopes to build a family of pressurised water reactors after Sizewell B, which comes on stream in 1994.Reuse content