The Hunterston B nuclear power plant has ended its nearly 46 years of zero-carbon electricity generation for Scotland with the shutdown of Unit B2. The 495-MWe advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGR), which began commercial operation in March 1977, was taken off line on January 7. The station’s companion unit, the 490-MWe AGR B1, was shut down last November.
Under an agreement with the U.K. government signed on June 23, 2021, EDF Energy, owner and operator of Britain’s power reactor fleet, is responsible for defueling all seven of the U.K.’s AGR nuclear stations over this decade. (The agreement does not include Sizewell B, which houses a 1,098-MWe pressurized water reactor slated to continue operating until at least 2035, or Hinkley Point C, which is currently under construction.) EDF expects the defueling of the AGR facilities to take from three-and-a-half to five years.
Scheduled to follow Hunterston B into the defueling phase by July of this year is the two-unit Hinkley Point B plant in Somerset, England.
Tribute: “The contribution Hunterston B power station has made to this country cannot be overestimated,” said station director Paul Forrest. “As well as providing stable, well-paid employment for thousands of people in the North Ayrshire area, it has produced almost 300 terawatt hours 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.
“This is an incredible achievement, and everyone here is proud of what the station has accomplished. We will pause to reflect the end of generation, but we are looking forward to the future. We don’t just switch off the power station, close the gates, and walk away. It will take time to defuel and decommission the site, and we will continue to need skilled people to do this.”
Noteworthy: Over the course of its operating life, Hunterston B avoided 224 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, worth £16.8 billion (about $22.8 billion) at today’s carbon prices, according to the World Nuclear Association.