Utility firm EDF has announced that it will be winding down operations at Hunterston B, one of the UK’s most productive nuclear power stations, after cracks were found in the core of its reactors.  

Reactor 4 at Hunterston B, the last operating unit at the plant, will come offline at noon on Friday. 

Commencing operations in 1976, the station has run for 46 years in North Ayrshire, Scotland. According to EDF, the site’s years in operation have saved CO2 emissions equivalent to taking all of Scotland’s cars off the road for 19 years.  

In a statement, station director Paul Forrest 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 300TWh of zero-carbon electricity, enough to power every home in Scotland for 31 years. 

“It was originally thought Hunterston B would run for 25 years but investment in the plant and the people who work here mean we’ve been able to safely extend that to 46 years.” 

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The move will cut the UK’s nuclear capacity by an eighth, and comes as the latest in a spate of nuclear decommissioning– with calls rising for increased government backing to support the nation’s energy generation as sites rapidly wind down.  

With closures announced in Hinkley Point B, Hartlepool 1 and Heysham 1, almost half of the country’s nuclear capacity will go offline by 2025. EDF’s Torness and Heysham 2 plants are also due to be retired by March 2028 over safety concerns, two years earlier than anticipated.  

While pandemic-related delays have slowed development of the next generation of nuclear power plants, some projects are in the pipeline, such as EDF’s proposed 3,200 MWe Sizewell C plant and Horizon’s 2,700 MWe Wylfa Newydd project in Anglesey – though investment is still needed before either can be truly viable.  

As the UK awaits more nuclear capacity coming online, reliance on renewables and foreign investment is an anticipated necessity to get through the colder months.