EDF has received approval to start generating power again from one of the reactors at Hunterston B power station in Ayrshire.

The move follows a major, two-year inspection and investment programme "to prove that the station can respond safely to a range of earthquake scenarios, far worse than the UK has ever experienced or expects to occur".

That came after cracks were found in the graphite bricks in a reactor. 

The energy company said that given the age of the station and the desire to provide clarity for staff, the community and business partners, EDF has decided that Hunterston B will move into the defuelling phase no later than January 7 2022.

This is subject to a further inspection in spring 2021 and then regulatory approval for a final six months of operation.

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Hunterston B started generating low carbon electricity in 1976.

In 2012 EDF extended the generating life of the station out to March 2023, with a +/- 2 years proviso. 
Matt Sykes, Managing Director for EDF’s Generation business, 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 8 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.”

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Once Hunterston B stops generating power, EDF will take on the next task of defuelling the station, the first stage of the nuclear decommissioning process.

Preparations for defuelling have been under way for a long time and, once started, the process is expected to take a few years to complete.

Defuelling will involve continued use of EDF’s experienced teams, and specialist supply chain companies, which it said would help sustain an important source of local jobs in Ayrshire and the surrounding economy.

Simone Rossi, EDF’s UK chief executive, said: “I am extremely proud of all those who have run Hunterston B for more than 40 years.

"Today’s announcement underlines the urgent need for investment in new, low carbon nuclear power to help Britain achieve net zero and secure the future for its nuclear industry, supply chain and workers.”

EDF is building European pressurised water reactors (EPRs) at Hinkley Point C and developing plans for a replica plant at Sizewell C. It also has a minority stake in the Bradwell B project.

Friends of the Earth Scotland's Director Dr Richard Dixon said: “Nuclear energy is dangerous, unaffordable and unreliable. For some electricity today, we are leaving a thousand generations of future humans dangerous radioactive waste. 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 ten 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. The lights have stayed on with no problems.

“Nuclear power leaves such a mess that there will be plenty of work cleaning up the Hunterston site for decades to come. The need to clean up afterwards is the only thing reliable about the nuclear industry.”