TORNESS nuclear power station in East Lothian is to have its operating life extended by seven years.

The station’s operator, EDF Energy, announced the extension yesterday, which means the giant facility near Dunbar will be 42 years old when it ceases production in 2030.

The announcement was approved by the nuclear industry regulator and caused immediate controversy, with green campaigners criticising the decision on grounds of the nuclear waste it will produce and the lack of consultation on the extension.

Torness, which started operating in 1988, employs 550 full-time staff and a further 180 contractors. Its two reactors generate enough electricity to power more than two million homes.

EDF has also announced that it is extending generation from three other nuclear power stations across the UK: Heysham 1 and 2 in Lancashire, and Hartlepool on the north-east coast of England.

The Hunterston B station in North Ayrshire will still close by 2023.

EDF has yet to make a final investment decision on its planned new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

Chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said: “Our continuing investment, our expertise and the professional relationship we have with the safety regulator means we can safely prolong the operating life of our nuclear power stations.

“Their excellent output shows that reliability is improving while their safety and environmental performance is higher than ever.”

Torness station director Paul Winkle said: “We have a very proud family workforce who take great satisfaction in their work and to be able to say to that workforce ‘you have a job until 2030’ is very nice.

“Many of our workforce live in the local community. Our wage bill is around £40 million a year and that workforce will continue to put money into the local community.”

Leading the criticism of the decision was Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, who said: “Nuclear power is the ultimate unsustainable form of energy, creating waste which needs to be looked after for 25,000 years.

“While disappointing, this announcement is hardly a surprise. Everyone who knows anything about energy has been expecting this announcement for a decade.

“Nuclear power is on its last legs in Europe. The UK Government needs to refocus on energy efficiency and renewables instead of continuing to chase the nuclear dream.”

The Scottish Greens claimed a lack of consultation over the extension.

Sarah Beattie-Smith, infrastructure and investment spokeswoman for the Scottish Greens and MSP candidate for South of Scotland, said: “The announcement is bad news for East Lothian and bad for Scotland. The fact that a private company can dictate energy policy for another seven years undermines democracy, both in the local community in East Lothian and nationally at a time when the Scottish Government ought to be focused on our ambitious climate targets.

“Torness is almost 30 years old and we should be planning for its decommissioning. With Scotland’s abundant renewable energy resources and the need to focus on energy efficiency, we have no need for nuclear and we should be investing in jobs and infrastructure that do not store up exorbitant costs for future generations. At the last count, the cost of dealing with the UK’s existing nuclear waste legacy was £100 billion.

“Torness does bring skilled jobs, but the focus of local authorities and the Scottish Government must be the transfer of those skills to sustainable, renewable energy and industry.”

“Our plan to create more than 200,000 new jobs does exactly that, while also providing the investment that Scotland so desperately needs in a clean, renewable future.”

Labour MSP for East Lothian Iain Gray said: “It’s very good news – over 500 high-quality, high-skilled and well-paid jobs and far more jobs through contractors. I think it’s good news for Scotland as well because Scotland needs the low-carbon electricity generated by Torness.”

Murdo Fraser, Scottish Conservative energy spokesman, said: “We need a balance of energy generation in Scotland, and nuclear has proved time and again just how essential a part it can play


A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government supports life extensions for existing nuclear power stations, where the environmental and safety requirements continue to be met.

“Over the coming months, we intend to continue to work towards an over-arching energy strategy, setting out priorities.”