THE decommissioning of Hunterston B will not endanger the supply of energy in Scotland, a minister has said.

The closure of the nuclear power station, which has reduced its output in the last few years after cracks were discovered in its core, was announced yesterday, with work to take it offline expected to start no later than January 2022, according to operator EDF Energy.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme, energy minister Paul Wheelhouse reiterated the Scottish Government's position that no new nuclear power stations should be built in Scotland, with energy generated by renewable sources instead.

READ MORE: Hunterston nuclear power station to shut down early after cracks found in core

He said: "I think some of the coverage yesterday implied that Scotland would be in a somewhat desperate state in terms of electricity generation if Hunterston was to close."

Wheelhouse said that for a two-month period in 2018, Hunterston B was entirely offline and the Torness nuclear power station in East Lothian was operating at reduced capacity, but it caused no issues for the energy supply.

"The lights were still on," he said.

"Scotland, in the last year for which we got full statistics, exported a net 15.9 terawatt hours of energy - which dwarfs the output of Hunterston."

When challenged on the use of intermittent power - such as wind or solar, which can see outputs drop as conditions change - and the possibility of importing nuclear power from abroad, Wheelhouse said: "I'm not wanting to underplay the importance of Hunterston in the energy system.

"Nuclear energy does have outages, as I pointed out in 2018, three of the four reactors were out of action and one was only operating at 50% capacity and we still had the lights on.

"It's important not to panic people into suddenly thinking there's going to be a shortage of electricity when there's not."

Better storage of energy created from renewable sources would improve the output in Scotland, the minister said, adding the Scottish Government has lobbied UK ministers - who are in charge of energy policy - to increase support for more pump storage hydro.

He said: "That's something that we cannot influence directly, other than through planning, it requires the UK Government to provide certainty of revenue to allow those essential dams to be built and sometimes upgraded."