TORNESS Nuclear power station has opened to the public for the first time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in America.
The power station unveiled its new visitor centre yesterday before taking guests on a guided walk of the power station – the first since 2001.
EDF Energy, which runs the facility, said it hoped to attract thousands of visitors, from East Lothian and across Scotland, as part of its commitment to increasing openness at nuclear power stations.
Station director Paul Winkle said the “grey box with a barbed wire fence” was an imposing sight for anyone passing it.
He said: “There’s a suspicion of ‘is it safe’ and ‘is it being run safely?’ These visitors coming gives us a way of demystifying that.”
Schoolchildren from Dunbar Grammar and East Linton Primary were invited to test the new education facilities at the official opening by MSP Iain Gray.
The former physics teacher said it demonstrated a “remarkable science” that the tours would allow people to appreciate first hand.
Visitors were guided around the plant, which has generated 200 terawatts (a terawatt is a million million watts) of power since it first opened in 1988, and met staff including Leeza Holmes, 19, of Dunbar, and Danielle Smith, 27, from Southhouse,
As two of the 33 apprentices on site, they said they hoped it would encourage youngsters to consider a career in nuclear energy.
Danielle said: “We’ve done a lot of work going out to schools and talking to children there but it is really great to have them coming on site now.
“We are really passionate about science so if we can pass that on then great. I worked in customer services before I got the apprenticeship here and I love it. It’s hard work but worth it.”
Security checks, which can take up to two weeks, are needed before anyone can enter the site.
The tours start with a talk on how the station operates and are predominantly aimed at schools and universities although members of the public are welcome by appointment. Dunbar Grammar pupil Rogan Paul, 14, said it was great to take part in the hands-on learning.
He said: “It has been really interesting and I think it’s taught me a lot about nuclear energy. We have been studying electricity so this has fitted in really well.”
Torness, which generated 30 per cent of Scotland’s electricity last year, was open to visitors prior to the terrorist attacks in 2001.
Stricter regulations were brought in during the aftermath of the atrocity which led to Torness, and the other nuclear stations across the UK, closing to the public.
Mr Winkle said the more recent nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011, spurred the need to demonstrate their working practice.
He added: “Rightly we have to more cautious about who we let on the site but it’s getting the balance. The requirement of this industry is to be open and transparent and this is great way of achieving this.”