ONE of Didcot's power stations could close two years earlier than planned.

Coal-fired Didcot A was expected to remain open until 2015, but now looks likely to close next year.

In 2008, RWE npower agreed that the power station would close in 2015, or when it reached 20,000 hours of generation from that point.

It last night emerged the facility was likely to reach its limit by 2013.

If Didcot A does close next year, then demolition of its six iconic cooling towers could begin after six months of decommissioning the plant.

Town council leader Margaret Davies said: “Some people in Didcot have warmed to the cooling towers after all these years but they need to get ready for them coming down because they will soon be obsolete.

“People were appalled when the towers first went up but such is human nature that some people now have great affection for them.

“Vale council leaders will now have to start talks in earnest about what should go on the site after the plant closes and must liaise with South Oxfordshire District Council as the land is on Didcot’s doorstep.

“I think it could become a commercial site with businesses moving out of Lower Broadway relocating there – I don’t think it’s suitable for housing.”

Didcot A first generated electricity in September 1970 and celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2010, but the Oxford Mail has been told staff are now being advised that closure next year looks likely.

Didcot A power station manager Jim Haggan said: “Under the EU’s Large Combustion Plant Directive, Didcot A power station will close either by the end of 2015, or at the point at which we have completed the 20,000 hours of generation the legislation allows.

“The power station has had high levels of generation over the past year and this has had an impact on the remaining hours we have available to operate.

“It is likely that the station might close next year at the current rate of using the remaining hours. However, a fixed date has not been decided. Closing a major power station is a complex task and pre-planning is essential. The decommissioning and demolition of the plant could take years.”

Spokesman Kelly Brown added that since 2008, 250 staff at Didcot A have been aware of the closure plans and when the plant closes the company will try to find staff jobs elsewhere in the company.

She added some staff would move to other parts of the company while others would be involved in the station decommissioning.

RWE npower will discuss with local authority planners what the site could be used for.

Gas-fired Didcot B power station will not be affected by the closure of Didcot A and will continue production.

Ms Brown added: “The grid will not be affected if a coal station such as Didcot stopped generating, as new power stations have been built that will replace this lost capacity.

“RWE npower has built a new gas plant in Staythorpe (in Nottinghamshire) and a new gas plant in Pembroke will be operational by the end of this year.”