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New lease of life for British nuclear reactors

British Energy is trying to extend the life of its nuclear reactors by five years, which would ease fears that the UK could face power shortages in the future.

The nuclear generator had planned to close Dungeness B in Kent first in 2008. But its chief executive, Mike Alexander, told The Independent on Sunday that the board is planning to ask the regulator, the NII, for permission to extend its life until 2013. The next two reactors slated for decommissioning are Hunterston B in Ayrshire and Hinkley Point in Somerset in 2011. Their lives could also be extended by five years each.

The company owns eight reactors, five of which had been scheduled for closure by 2014. The most modern reactor, Sizewell B in Suffolk, is the last due to close in 2035, according to the company.

Mr Alexander must make a final decision on Dungeness B next summer. "The commercial case is overwhelming," he said. The company must convince the regulator that the reactor can meet safety requirements. It was built in 1983.

He also revealed that advisory fees for the restructuring of British Energy had reached the "high £80m figure", up from £72m in September. Its market value is £75m.

It must pay bankers and lawyers advising both the company and its creditors on the implementation of a £5bn gov-ernment rescue deal, announced 18 months ago. It is awaiting approval from the European Commission for the rescue.

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