IT IS the final countdown for Oldbury Nuclear Power Station as it has confirmed it will be shutting down its last reactor on February 29.

The site’s operational life was supposed to end more than three years ago but was extended until 2012 due its outstanding production record.

In that time, the plant has generated an additional seven terawatt hours of electricity, worth an estimated £300 million to the taxpayer.

The extra years of activity have also saved around six million tonnes of carbon from being released into the atmosphere.

Manager Mike Heaton looked back on the station’s generation history at a meeting of the Site Stakeholder Group last week.

He told members: "Our current performance is very good and we have exceeded our targets for generation. We will hopefully reach 1.4 terawatt by the end of February."

He added: "We've also achieved two years without a lost time accident which, in a workforce of about 450, is a significant number. The site is very proud of this and we celebrated this with the staff."

Following the closure, the nuclear station will move through a transitional period into defuelling of the reactors before decommissioning begins. The process should take up to two years.

Spent fuel is due to be stored on site in cooling ponds before being placed in glass flasks and moved, two or three at a time each week, to the Sellafield reprocessing plant.

Mr Heaton added that the closure meant the 450-strong staff would be reduced by 100 after a year.

"We are working with unions to make sure that everybody’s expectations are met," he said.

"Some staff members are seeking earlier retirement. The retention of key staff is something we have been working on for a while. We have made sure we keep the people that we need."

Oldbury Power Station also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the announcement of its creation by the British government.

The end of generation does not mean a drop in vigilance, however. The plant’s engineers have in fact stepped up safety measures following the Fukushima tragedy and the Weightman nuclear report’s subsequent recommendations for the UK.

Senior engineering consultant Barry Guy said at the meeting his team had looked at various disaster scenarios, most of them very unlikely to affect the UK, and come up with adapted and effective solutions.