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Hunterston B nuclear plant

2022 closure for Hunterston B nuclear power station after core cracks

Image credit: EDF Energy

The ageing Hunterston B nuclear power station in North Ayrshire, Scotland is set to be decommissioned from 2022, several years after cracks were found in its core.

Operated by EDF Energy, the plant was originally estimated to continue operating until 2023 but defuelling will now occur no later than 7 January 2022.

Its two reactors were already shut down from 2018 to 2019 due to safety concerns, with one of them resuming operations from August to December last year.

Both reactors are now being restarted again but will only operate for just over a year before the lengthy decommissioning process takes place.

Hunterston B has a very similar in design to the Hinkley Point B power station which is also due to operate until 2023.

It has been generating energy since 1976 but in October 2014 cracks were discovered in one of the reactors following routine inspections. EDF said it anticipated the cracking as the station ages and would not impact the safety of the plant.

Nevertheless, further cracking discovered in early 2018 caused the firm to instigate the station’s temporary closure.

Matt Sykes, EDF managing director, said: “Hunterston B has quietly delivered a major contribution to the UK for more than 40 years.

“It has far exceeded its original remit and, over its lifetime, gone on to safely produce enough low carbon energy to power the whole of Scotland for eight years.

“We didn’t know back in the 1960s, when these plants were designed, just how important low-carbon energy would become.

“We owe all those that designed, built, commissioned and still operate the station a huge debt of gratitude.

“Our focus is on continuing to safely deliver the last period of power generation and then transition the station into decommissioning.”

No immediate job losses are anticipated, due to the upcoming defuelling phase. Around 520 full-time EDF Energy employees work at the plant alongside more than 250 full-time contract partners.

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s director Dr Richard Dixon said: “While we’d rather the reactors never restarted, having a final closure date in sight is a hugely significant step in Scotland’s transition to clean, green energy.

“The Hunterston reactors were supposed to shut nearly 10 years ago and their cracked cores show that they are well past their sell-by date.

“Restarting the Hunterston reactors is definitely not worth the risk. Most people in Scotland will not even have noticed these reactors at Hunterston have been offline for most of the last two years, as the expansion of renewable energy has made up for the difference.”

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