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Hunterston B moves into defuelling phase

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has overseen the final period of operations at Hunterston B power station after it switched off its last reactor for the final time today.

After nearly 46 years of generating electricity Hunterston B power station has moved into its defuelling phase.

The EDF-owned and operated site in North Ayrshire, Scotland, first started generating electricity in 1976.

In April 2021, ONR provided EDF with permission for Reactors 3 and 4 at the site to return to service for their final period of operation after extensive scrutiny of their safety case by our specialist inspectors.

Reactor 3 was then shutdown by EDF in November 2021 and Reactor 4 was shutdown today (7 January 2022) by Station Director Paul Forrest.

The power station now moves into its defuelling and decommissioning stage which will be effectively and efficiently regulated by ONR to ensure the safety of workers and the public is sustained during these next phases.

The nuclear fuel removed from the reactors will then be safely transported by rail to Sellafield in Cumbria for storage.

On completion of defuelling and demonstration that the two advanced-gas reactors are fuel free, the holder of the nuclear site licence will transfer to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority for its subsidiary Magnox to continue with decommissioning.

ONR’s Head of Operating Reactors Sub-Division, Ian Bramwell, said: “Both reactors at Hunterston B power station will now undergo a statutory outage to ensure they are ready for defueling which will be overseen by our specialist inspectors.

“Defuelling is when all the nuclear fuel is safely removed from the site, which removes the vast majority of the radioactive hazard. It is anticipated that defuelling at Hunterston B will take around three years to complete.

“We will then continue to effectively regulate the site throughout the entire decommissioning phase of the power station to make sure the licensee complies with all regulations to safeguard workers and the public.”