Two 'old' generating plants face closure

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NATIONAL Power is to close two power stations with the loss of 400 jobs. The company said that the larger of the two, West Thurrock in Essex, burned imported coal and was to be closed because of new contracts with British Coal. West Thurrock employs 330 people while the second plant, Padiham in Lancashire, has a workforce of 70.

Earlier this week, National Power and PowerGen signed agreements to buy 40 million tonnes of British Coal output this year and 30 million tonnes in each of the next four years. The Government is also hoping that British Coal will be able to secure more sales to the generators to save 12 pits previously earmarked for closure.

A spokesman for National Power said: 'The closure of Thurrock must be looked at against that background.' He added that if the company were to sell the power stations to other operators, it could erode the already shrinking market for British Coal.

The generators are under pressure from Offer, the electricity regulator, to consider selling power plants to other companies to increase competition. However, National Power said: 'We are not offering these plants for sale. They are old and uneconomic. We do not believe that anyone would be able to pay what we consider to be the right price.'

National Power added that it had considered saving Padiham by converting it to burn orimulsion, a cheap oil-based fuel. Her Majesty's Inspector of Pollution has ruled that sulphur cleaning equipment must be fitted to orimulsion-fired stations, which the company said ruled out the conversion on cost grounds.

Offer said that it was still considering the closure plans and, if necessary, would bring in independent arbitrators to see if the moves were justified. National Power has already withdrawn plants with a generating capacity of 4,800 megawatts since January 1990.

About 350 more jobs are to go at Leyland DAF's truck operations in Leyland and Glasgow.

The National Grid Company has signed an eight-year agreement renewing the electricity link between the UK and France.