TORNESS Power Station is to close two years earlier than planned.
The nuclear power station, near Dunbar, which employs about 500 staff and several hundred contractors, had been due to cease energy production in March 2030.
But now, operator EDF has confirmed that Torness – along with Heysham 2 in Lancashire – will stop generating electricity in March 2028.
One MSP described the announcement as “disappointing but not unexpected”, while the chairman of Dunbar Community Council said it was a “very sad day” for many in the area.
In 2016, the station’s operational life was extended by seven years to 2030 but this, says EDF, is under constant review.
In a statement, the company said that inspections, modelling and operational experience from other sites had given EDF “a clearer picture of lifetime expectations” for Torness.
“This revision will help with planning and certainty for staff and stakeholders,” EDF added.
Tam Al Bishawi, station director at Torness, said: “Investment in the plant means Torness is already operating beyond its expected 25-30-year generating life and is one of the most productive of EDF’s fleet of nuclear power stations.
“Since it first started making electricity in 1988, it has produced nearly 280TWh (terawatt hours) of zero-carbon electricity. To put that huge amount into context, that means Torness alone has produced enough electricity to power every home in Scotland for 28 years.
“Torness employs around 500 staff and 250 contractors and has an annual wage bill of around £40m a year, and as most people live locally, that provides a boost to the local economy.”
Paul McLennan, who is both East Lothian’s MSP and a councillor for the Dunbar and East Linton ward, said: “The timescale of 2030 had been communicated previously and I had recently met with the management a few months ago.
“I look forward to continuing dialogue with Torness management over the next few years to ensure employment is retained.”
Kenny MacAskill, East Lothian’s MP, said: “Whilst it’s within previous announced potential dates, it’s still sooner than many expected.
“Safety, though, is paramount and it is at the end of its lifespan.
“Work in decommissioning will still be significant but it’s also why ensuring that East Lothian benefits from the renewables off its shores is essential.”
Craig Hoy, South Scotland MSP, said: “Torness is an important and valued local employer and a source of significant energy supply It is important we work to protect skilled jobs in the energy sector locally up to 2028 and well beyond.
“I would encourage the Scottish Government to reverse its opposition to nuclear energy so we have a long-term, sustainable nuclear sector as part of our energy supply as we transition towards net zero.”
Fellow South Scotland MSP Martin Whitfield said: “This is disappointing but not unexpected news.
“Torness has provided secure, skilled, well-paid jobs supporting East Lothian communities and the economy of the whole of Scotland.
“The short-sighted view of the Scottish Government means we may well have to rely on gas from Russia to keep the lights on.”
Pippa Swan, chairwoman of Dunbar Community Council, described the news as “a very sad day”.
She said: “I, personally, think nuclear power is going to have to play a part in Scottish energy provision but recognise it is the end of the life for that station.
“It will be very disappointing for all the generations of Dunbar people that have worked at Torness.
“We have got to be grateful that there is going to be several decades of decommissioning work to, hopefully, keep people gainfully employed for the foreseeable future.”
Scottish Government policy means that there is no prospect of it being replaced at the end of its lifespan. A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is absolutely clear in our opposition to the building of new nuclear power plants in Scotland under current technologies.
“We believe that significant growth in renewables, storage, hydrogen and carbon capture provide the best pathway to net zero by 2045, and will deliver the decarbonisation we need to see across industry, heat and transport.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon said: “Nuclear is incredibly expensive and suffers from complex problems, as well as creating waste which will have to be looked after for thousands of years. Scotland is well on its way to getting all of our power from renewables; nuclear is yesterday’s technology. I look forward to a nuclear-free Scotland before the end of the decade.”
And he claimed: “Torness faces real problems with cracking in the graphite cores which has forced EDF to admit the inevitable and close earlier than planned. The question is whether they will make it even that far.
“Local people must be reassured that EDF and the relevant authorities have a credible, well-resourced plan to clean up this toxic site.”
Last year, it was announced that Scotland’s only other nuclear power station, Hunterston B in Ayrshire, would close almost two years early after cracks were found in the core of its reactors.
EDF was approached for a comment about the alleged “cracking” at Torness but had not responded at the time of going to press.