Scotlands History

Nuclear power

Nuclear power in the 1960s was seen as one answer to the decline in coal production and a way of diversifying the sources of power. By comparison with fossil fuels it produces little pollution and virtually no greenhouse gases.

By 1960 there were two nuclear power plants in Scotland. Dounreay in Caithness opened in 1955, developing the UK’s first fast nuclear reactor programme to supply electricity to a commercial grid.  Chapelcross, near Annan, opened in 1959 to produce material for the UK’s nuclear weapons programme and to generate power for the National Grid. 

In Ayrshire, Hunterston A (opened in 1964) was one of the largest civil nuclear power stations of its time. Still in operation are Hunterston B (opened in 1976), an advanced gas-cooled reactor, and Torness (East Lothian, opened in 1988), the last of the UK’s second-generation nuclear plants. More than half of Scotland’s energy comes from nuclear power.

From its earliest days nuclear power has proved controversial. There were popular protests and campaigns against the building of nuclear power stations in Scotland. The safe disposal of nuclear waste, the environmental impact of the stations and the massive costs of decommissioning nuclear power stations remain contentious issues.

The 21st century has seen renewed demonstrations and protests as the building of a new generation of nuclear power stations was proposed.

  • Photograph of Dounreay from Sandside Bay

Click on the image to view a larger version.