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Defuelling milestone for Hunterston B

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has overseen a key milestone in the defuelling phase at Hunterston B power station.

After nearly 46 years of generating electricity, Hunterston B power station moved into its defuelling phase in January 2022.

The EDF-owned site in North Ayrshire, Scotland, has completed the defuelling of Reactor 3 in recent weeks, and defuelling work is due to start shortly on the station’s second reactor (Reactor 4).

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

Throughout the defuelling and decommissioning stage, the site will continue to be regulated by ONR.

On completion of defuelling and verification that both the two advanced gas-cooled reactors are fuel free, the nuclear site licence will then be transferred to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority for its subsidiary Magnox Ltd to carry out decommissioning work. This is expected to take place around 2026.

Fuel free verification is when all of the spent fuel has been verified as having been removed from the reactor.

Mike Webb, ONR’s Head of Operating Reactors Sub-Division, said: “Once Hunterston B ceased generating our inspectors have been focused on regulating the defuelling phase of the station.

“Defuelling is the process of safely removing the spent nuclear fuel from the reactors, which removes the vast majority of the radioactive hazard.

“We will continue to effectively and efficiently regulate the Hunterston site throughout the entire defuelling and decommissioning phase to ensure the licensee complies with all regulations to safeguard workers and the public.”