Scottish Reactor Life Extensions

In July 2011 it was reported that EDF Energy is already preparing its case for a further life extension for Hunterston B from 2016 to 2021.1 EDF says it will decide by 2013 whether to extend the life of Hunterston B (and its sister station Hinkley B) beyond the current 2016 closure date. EDF says it may extend the lives of all its 14 advanced gas-cooled reactors as much as seven years on average.2

NFLA (Scotland) wrote a joint letter to the Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing MSP, together with FoE Scotland and WWF Scotland asking him to commission an independent study on the risks associated with continuing to operate the ageing Hunterston B reactors.3 If Torness were to receive the same ten year life extension Hunterston hopes to get, that would mean Scotland would not become a non-nuclear country until at least 2033.

Fergus Ewing MSP told the Scottish Parliament in 2011 there was a “rational case”for extending the life of Scotland’s two nuclear plants, and that the SNP government was “perfectly open” to the continued use of Hunterston and Torness power stations, to ensure there was security of supply. He told a debate on renewable energy in the Scottish Parliament that the two power stations could continue to generate electricity “providing that the case is justified on economic and environmental grounds”. He added: “That case exists, and it exists because of the need for security of supply. We have always acknowledged that, although we are clearly opposed to the building of new nuclear power stations.” 4

Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “The Scottish government should not be propping [the power stations] up in their old age, during which they will grow ever increasingly unreliable and potentially even more dangerous The SNP has always been viewed as anti-nuclear, particularly given the anti-nuclear words and activities of its politicians at all levels in recent years, and I’m sure many SNP voters will feel quite misled when they learn that this is not the case anymore.” 5

The Scottish Government’s Electricity Generation Policy Statement 6 (EGPS), published on 5th March 2012 reiterates the point that the 100% renewable electricity target does NOT mean that Scotland will be 100% dependent on renewables. Renewable generation will be backed up with thermal generation progressively fitted with carbon capture and storage – ensuring Scotland’s future electricity needs can be met without the need for new nuclear power stations. While “existing nuclear power stations should be phased out as they reach the end of their safe operating lives” this doesn’t preclude extending the life of existing stations.

See information about the Scottish Government’s role in plant life extensions here.

1. Largs & Millport Weekly News 11th April 2011
2. Bloomberg 22nd May 2012 
3. See annex in Safe Energy No.53
4. Times 1st July 2011 
5. Times 1st July 2011 
6. Electricity Generation Policy Statement, 5th March 2012


Published: 14 November 2012
Last updated: 18 November 2012