ONE of the UK’s oldest nuclear power stations will continue to operate in Scotland for “at least” another seven years, it was announced yesterday.
Hunterston B nuclear power station, in Ayrshire, has had its operational licence extended until 2023. By that time, it will have been operational for almost half a century.
The controversial decision by the UK government will safeguard hundreds of jobs at Hunterston, which was due to be decommissioned in 2016.
However, while industry union Prospect welcomed the news, environmentalists branded the extension “needless and risky”. Opposition politicians urged the Scottish Government to “stand up to” energy giant EDF, which runs the plant.
In 2008, SNP, Liberal Democrat and Green MSPs all voted to oppose new-build nuclear
However, the SNP said yesterday that it had also made clear that it was not against extending the operating life of Scotland’s existing nuclear stations “to help maintain security of supply” during the transition to renewable energy.
EDF, which was also given permission to extend operations at the Hinkley Point B nuclear power station in south-west England, said the extensions followed a “thorough review of safety”.
Chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said: “This decision will provide low-carbon energy to keep the lights on in the UK and it will safeguard jobs at the plants, in the UK nuclear industry and its supply chain.”
He added extending the plants’ lives also brought training and employment opportunities for a new generation of nuclear engineers and operators through dozens of apprenticeships.
Energy minister John Hayes said: “It is absolutely fantastic news for our energy security that these two nuclear power stations will continue generating vast amounts of electricity into the 2020s.
“This decision will also secure hundreds of skilled jobs in both Somerset and north Ayrshire, highlighting the value of
nuclear energy to our economy and society.”
But the Scottish Green Party condemned the decision and urged the SNP to use its veto to oppose the move.
Patrick Harvie MSP, Scottish Green Party co-convener, said: “This extension shows how light-touch regulation is failing us and the Scottish Government shouldn’t just wave it through.
“The Scottish Parliament has voted against new nuclear [power plants], and it’s clear our renewables targets are achievable. Why on earth would we allow EDF to increase our toxic waste legacy and continue the risks of running a plant built in the Sixties?”
Environmental organisation WWF Scotland suggested that the decision, which follows reports of spiralling costs and delays in building new nuclear stations elsewhere, was driven by greed rather than need.
Dr Dan Barlow, head of policy at WWF Scotland, said: “Given the constant delays and spiralling costs of building new
nuclear power stations, it is hardly surprising EDF is desperate
to squeeze every last drop out of its existing Hunterston B facility.
“Governments everywhere should be taking steps to end our reliance on both nuclear and fossil fuels. The rest of the UK should be following Scotland’s aim of generating 100 per cent of its electricity from renewables.”
The Scottish Government said it did not oppose extending operations at Hunterston or Torness, the other nuclear power station operating in Scotland, providing “the relevant safety case” was made.
A government spokeswoman said: “We have consistently made it clear that nuclear
energy will be phased out in Scotland over time, with no new nuclear-build taking place in Scotland.
“But we have also consistently made clear that this does not preclude extending the operating life of Scotland’s existing
nuclear stations to help maintain security of supply over the next decade while the transition to renewables and cleaner thermal generation takes place.”