THE arrival of more than 1,000 contract workers to help with a massive nuclear maintenance programme will boost West Somerset's economy, it has been claimed.

One of the two reactors at the Hinkley B plant went offline on Friday so the work, which will last several weeks, could begin.

EDF Energy says the project, which involves EDF staff and more than 1,000 specialist contractors, will see several hundred inspections take place and new equipment installed.

Station director Mike Harrison said: “This inspection and investment programme will help enable us to continue generating power safely and reliably at Hinkley B for many years to come.

“A full two years of planning precedes this work.

“It's also positive for the local economy with the knock-on benefits for local shops, taxis, restaurants and accommodation providers.”

The man responsible for delivering the work, strategic outage manager Nick Wall, said: “Having the reactor offline makes it possible to inspect and undertake maintenance we wouldn't normally be able to do.

“Inspections will take place on the reactor's fuel channels and boiler pipework as well as the reactor core itself.

“The unit's electricity generating turbine will also see enhancement work and maintenance.

“It's a one-company approach and we're working hand in hand with our 1,000 contract partners to deliver this project safely and to time.”

Bridgwater MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, who visited the site this week to meet the workforce and see the maintenance preparations, said: “Investment on this scale is a welcome benefit to our local economy.”

The other reactor at Hinkley B will operate as normal throughout.

EDF says each reactor at Hinkley Point is shut down for inspection and maintenance every three years.