The Scottish Government has rejected new nuclear power stations as dangerous and unnecessary. It says Scotland has a massive renewables potential, as well as significant opportunities for clean fossil-fuel technologies and carbon storage. Harnessing that potential can meet the country’s future energy demands several times over, while tackling climate change.1

Nor does the Scottish government accept that geological disposal of radioactive waste is the right way forward, so it has been developing its own Radioactive Waste Management Policy.

As far as nuclear power stations are concerned, Scotland has two Magnox stations, two AGR stations (see old reactors) and the Dounreay Fast Reactor Research site. There is also Her Majesty’s Naval Base (HMNB) Clyde which carries out maintenance and support services for operational nuclear submarines, and HMNB Rosyth which is decommissioning nuclear submarine re-fit facilities and is home to seven decommissioned nuclear submarines.

Chapelcross in Dumfries and Galloway was one of the world’s earliest nuclear power plants, with four 49 MWe Magnox reactors operating from 1959 and 1960 until 2004. Reactor 3 became the first unit to be fully defueled in April 2012 with the removal of all of its 9245 fuel elements,2 and reactor 4 shortly after.3 The spent fuel was shipped to Sellafield. The defuelling program was completed in February 2013.4

Hunterston on the Ayrshire coast has two Magnox reactors (Hunterston A) and two AGRs (Hunterston B). Hunterston A first fed power into the grid in 1964. Reactor 2 was shutdown on 31st December 1989 followed by Reactor 1 on 30th March 1990. Defuelling commenced on 16th August 1990 was completed on 21st January 1995 with the last fuel being despatched from site on 8th February 1995.5

Hunterston B has two AGR reactors which started generating in 1976, operated by EDF Energy. Hunterston B was originally expected to close in 2011 after 35 years, but it has had its life extended to at least 2016. EDF Energy hopes to keep the station open until 2023. (See Reactor Life Extensions).

Torness on the East Lothian coast near Dunbar has two AGR reactors which opened in 1989, also operated by EDF Energy. A long campaign was run against its construction and opening in the 1970s and 80s. After the station opened in 1989, the Glasgow Herald quoted a Scottish Office ‘source’ who described it as a £2.5 billion mistake which should never have been built.

Government Targets

The Scottish Government has set the following targets:-

  • Reducing Scotland’s emissions of greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050.
  • Supplying 100% of electricity demand equivalent from renewables by 2020, and an interim target of 50% by 2015.6
  • A target to deliver 500MW of community and locally owned renewable energy by 2020.
  • Providing 11% of heat from renewables by 2020.
  • Meeting 30% of total energy (not just electricity) demand from renewables by 2020 (See Scotland’s Energy Policy).
  • Reducing total energy consumption in Scotland by 12% by 2020.

From the Archives

Hunterston ‘B’, ‘a catastrophe we must not repeat’, SCRAM Energy Bulletin No.7 Aug/Sept 1978

Aluminium Foiled, SCRAM Energy Bulletin No.28 Feb/Mar 1982. The sorry history of the Invergordon aluminium smelter project charts the slide into the nightmare of the white heat of technology. Hunterston B was supposed to provide cheap and reliable electricity but proved to be expensive and unreliable.

Opening day blues, SCRAM Safe Energy Journal 71, June/July ’89, on the opening of Torness nuclear power station.

1. Ministers say No to Nuclear Power, Scottish Government Press Release 9th October 2012, Why Ministers say no to Nuclear Power, Scottish Government 10th October 2012 and Scottish Government Press Release 30th May 2011
2. World Nuclear News 18th April 2012
3. BBC 3rd May 2012
4. BBC 27th February 2013
5. Magnox Sites website accessed 15th November 2012
6. Scottish Government Press Release 30th Oct 2012


Published: 10 October 2012
Last updated: 24 June 2013