DRESSED in the boiler suit he once wore for the former Central Energy Generating Board, pensioner Lyn Bowen pressed the button to switch off Didcot A Power Station for good.

It was just the flick of a switch, but it marked the end of almost 43 years of power generation at the coal-fired plant.

Didcot A is closing as part of a nationwide switch to gas-fired power stations, which are more eco-friendly.

At 2pm, a hush descended over the control room as about 30 staff gathered to watch the desynchronisation, disconnecting Didcot A from the National Grid.

If you blinked, you would have missed the momentous moment, which was also watched by more than 100 staff and invited guests on a live feed beamed into the staff café.

There were no celebrations after former employee Mr Bowen completed the switch-off almost 43 years after he switched on the power station on September 30, 1970.

“It was me alone that switched it on and I switched it off,” said the father-of-two from East Hanney, near Wantage.

After completing the switch-off, he gave a thumbs-down sign to other staff and said: “I didn’t like turning the switch.

“When I put it on in 1970 it was exciting, there was a future ahead, but switching it off felt so negative.

“I didn’t like it one bit and that’s why I gave a thumbs-down sign.

“Didcot A should not close – it should go on for a few years yet because the country is desperate for power.”

Father-of-four Simon Holloway, from Steventon, was in charge of the shutdown.

He has worked at Didcot A since 1980 and said: “I will be very sorry to see it go.

“Coal is king because it can be stored.

“The desynchronisation was completed by pushing down a button and turning it.

“It was very emotional for everyone, particularly for the staff who are going to lose their jobs.

“There is a real team ethos here and it will be very difficult to find that somewhere else.”

A nine-month decommissioning process will begin on March 31, before demolition begins. Demolition of the six 325ft cooling towers could take years and no decision has yet been taken on how they will come down.

It is expected that part of the site will be used for employment rather than housing, while gas-fired Didcot B power station, which employs about 80 people, will remain on the site.

Phil Noake, 60, power station manager since June last year, said: “Staff were resigned to this because since 2008 they have known it was coming.

“It will be strange when there are no longer plumes of steam coming out of the cooling towers and by tomorrow you will see nothing coming out.

“It is appropriate for the cooling towers to go in two or three years’ time.

“Most likely some will be blown up and some chipped down.”

Mr Noake added that there was room on the site for Didcot B to be extended but added there were no current plans to do so.

  • About 210 staff work at Didcot A, while about 80 staff work at Didcot B, the gas-fired power station on the site.
  • Decommissioning will begin on March 31. Seventy staff from Didcot A kept on for decommissioning, 40 given other roles with RWE npower, and 100 made redundant.
  • Didcot A is a 2,000MW coal-fired power station which opted out a European Union Large Combustion Plant Directive in 2008.
  • RWE npower decided not to fit flue gas desulphurisation equipment and therefore had to stop power generation after 20,000 hours, from 2008.
  • There have been 660,000 hours of generation since September 1970 with 250 billion kilowatt hours of electricity generated.
  • During the past five years the station on the 300-acre site has created enough power to make a trillion cups of tea.