EDF Energy has extended the life of four of its nuclear power plants in the UK.

The French company revealed today that Heysham 1 and Hartlepool would run for a further five years to 2024 while the closure dates for Heysham 2 and Torness have been extended by seven years to 2030.

The move will calm recent concerns raised over Britain’s spare capacity for the next decade.Torness nuclear power plant

It also comes at a time when EDF is stalling a final investment decision on its proposed Hinkley Point C reactor because of shareholder pressure over the cost of the £18bn ($26bn) project.

EDF Energy chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said that the “excellent output” of the four plants “shows that reliability is improving whilst their safety and environmental performance is higher than ever”.

He added that EDF – which operates eight nuclear reactors in Britain – believed that UK government policy on nuclear “will be maintained and strengthened and that gives us the confidence to invest in our nuclear stations”.

Heysham 1 and Hartlepool started generating electricity in 1983 while Heysam 2 and Torness became operational in 1988.

Together the four plants supply electricity to around a quarter of UK homes, employ 2000 permanent staff and 1000 contractors.

The news of the extensions came as EDF revealed its 2015 financial results, in which the group said that the performance of its UK nuclear fleet was “exceptional”, reaching an output of 60.6 TWh, its highest in the past 10 years.

EBITDA was €17.6bn and net income excluding non-recurring items was €4.8bn, which the group said was “stable compared to 2014”.Heysham 1 nuclear power plant

Overall, EDF saw net profit plunge 68 per cent on asset impairments and cut its dividend to 1.10 euros per share after paying 1.25 euros three years in a row.

Chief executive Jean-Bernard Levy said the final investment decision Hinkley Point C was “coming closer” and added that EDF was looking at how best to finance the project in light of low electricity prices.

In a statement EDF said “final steps are well in hand to enable the full construction phase to be launched very soon”.  

Matt Osborne, head of risk at energy consultants Inenco, said that the lifetime extension of EDF’s four plants “will relieve security of supply concerns in the short term, but it only papers over the cracks in the UK’s energy market”.

“Without significant investment in new generation, including new nuclear, homes and businesses face the risk of demand outstripping supply in the coming years.

“Extending the lifetime of ageing plant is simply kicking the can further down the road.”