French energy giant EDF said it will extend the operational life of Torness nuclear plant in East Lothian, Scotland, by at least seven years to 2030.
EDF is also extending the lives of Heysham 1 and Heysham 2 nuclear plants in Lancashire and the Hartlepool plant in Teesside.
The plants supply electricity to around a quarter of the UK’s homes, employing 2,000 permanent staff and 1,000 contractors.
In Scotland, EDF Energy operates Torness and the Hunterston B plant in North Ayrshire, which employ more than 1,000 staff and around 500 contractors.
It also employs 200 office staff in East Kilbride.
EDF’s operations in Scotland generate enough power to serve 4 million homes and provide gas and electricity to more than 80,000 Scottish customers.
The company also operates two windfarms in the Scottish Borders.
Iain Gray, Labour MSP East Lothian, said: “This is great news for East Lothian. Torness provides hundreds of highly skilled, well paid jobs locally.
“The power station takes on apprentices every year as well. Our local economy benefits from tens of millions of pounds every year.
“To be able to count on that all the way to 2030 is a real boost for the county. This is good news for Scotland too, because we very much need the electricity which Torness supplies, especially as it does so consistently, whatever the weather, and without emitting carbon dioxide.
“We have seen Cockenzie close and Longannet about to follow, with no new plant to replace them so Torness is critical to our energy future.
“Nuclear needs to be part of a diverse generation portfolio for some time to come as coal closes down and progress on marine energy seems stalled.”
But Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Nuclear power is the ultimate unsustainable form of energy, creating waste which needs to be looked after for 25,000 years.
“While disappointing, this announcement is hardly a surprise, everyone who knows anything about energy has been expecting this announcement for a decade.
“EDF have announced the life extension for Torness today because they are trying to distract attention from their terrible financial performance and their repeated failure to make a final decision on whether to build the Hinkley Point reactors in Somerset.
“Nuclear power is on its last legs in Europe and Hinkley will probably never get built. The UK Government needs to refocus on energy efficiency and renewables instead of continuing to chase the nuclear dream.”
EDF Energy CEO Vincent de Rivaz said: “Our continuing investment, our expertise and the professional relationship we have with the safety regulator means we can safely prolong the operating life of our nuclear power stations.
“Their excellent output shows that reliability is improving whilst their safety and environmental performance is higher than ever.
“In today’s extremely challenging market conditions, our belief that Government policy will be maintained and strengthened gives us the confidence to invest in our nuclear stations.
“This gives customers the best value low carbon electricity available.”
EDF Group said its EDF Energy division invests £600 million a year in its nuclear plants “and this investment is paying off.”
It said that in 2015, their output was 60.6TWh, the highest level for 10 years and 50% higher than in 2008 when EDF Energy acquired the stations.
“In the face of challenging market conditions, belief that two important government policies will be maintained and strengthened has given EDF Energy the confidence to move the scheduled closure dates of the four stations,” said EDF.
“The Carbon Price Floor encourages generation from low carbon sources like nuclear, while the Capacity Market ensures the UK has the power it needs.
“Last year, safety performance was the best ever with zero reportable nuclear events. The number of unplanned outages in 2015 dropped by more than 50% compared with the year before.”
EDF said that Tuesday’s announcement follows technical and safety reviews of the plants which have been shared with the independent nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).