ONE of Scotland’s two nuclear power plants is being permanently shut down, almost 46 years after it started generating electricity.

Bosses at Hunterston B in North Ayrshire said it had produced enough energy to power every home in Scotland for nearly 31 years since it first came on line.

Station director Paul Forrest said the contribution the plant, near West Kilbride, had made could “not be underestimated” – with the facility providing “stable, well-paid jobs” for thousands of people in the area as well as producing almost 300 terawatt hours (TWh) of “zero-carbon electricity”.

The plant was originally scheduled to generate electricity for 25 years, but Forrest said investment in the site – which is run by EDF Energy – meant the lifespan could be extended.

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Environmental campaigners said the final shutdown of Hunterston B – which started producing electricity 45 years and 11 months ago – was “inevitable”. Lang Banks, the director of WWF Scotland, said the plant had become “increasing unreliable”, arguing that growth in renewable energy means nuclear power is no longer required.

However Forrest, who will shut down reactor four at the plant at midday today, said: “The contribution Hunterston B power station has made to this country cannot be underestimated.

“As well as providing stable, well-paid employment for thousands of people in the North Ayrshire area, it has produced almost 300 TWh of zero-carbon electricity, enough to power every home in Scotland for 31 years.

“We will pause to reflect the end of generation but we are looking forward to the future. We don’t just switch off the power station, close the gates and walk away. It will take time to defuel and decommission the site and we will continue to need skilled people to do this.”

Banks said the “repeated failure to solve the problem of hundreds of cracks in the graphite bricks surrounding the reactor core means the closure of Hunterston B was inevitable”.

EDF said every member of staff who had said they wanted to continue working at Hunterston B had secured a role to help with the defueling – with some staff opting to move to other EDF sites and others deciding to retire.

Hunterston B cost £143 million to build, with work on the plant starting 55 years ago in 1967.

GMB Scotland secretary Louise Gilmour said: “Hunterston B has been a work-horse for Scotland’s energy mix, it’s helped keep the lights on and delivered opportunity and prosperity on the west coast for nearly 50 years.”

“The story of the station and its workforce should be celebrated, but Hunterston’s decommission is also a lament over the Scottish Government’s attitude towards nuclear.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Hunterston B, its operators and in particular the workforces who have staffed the plant for more than 40 years, have played an important role in supporting Scotland’s energy requirements. We do however remain clear in our opposition to the building of new nuclear power plants in Scotland under current technologies.

“Significant growth in renewables, storage, hydrogen and carbon capture provide the best pathway to net zero by 2045.”