Chapelcross Nuclear Power Station - View from the A75
Located near Annan in Dumfriesshire, Chapelcross is one of the oldest nuclear power stations in the United Kingdom, and the first in Scotland. Operational since 1959, this was originally a prototype station, which comprises four 50 megawatt Magnox reactors and a processing plant. The Magnox reactors, so-called because magnesium alloy was used to contain the fuel rods, were designed to produce weapons-grade plutonium for the military, as well as power for the civilian market.
With 450 staff, Chapelcross is one of the largest employers in Dumfries and Galloway and is operated by the government-owned nuclear contractor BNFL. Although its operational licence was extended until 2006 (in 1996), the discovery of a 40-year-old 20 cm 'hairline crack' in one of the four heat exchangers caused the plant to close for six months in 1998. A further incident occurred in 2001 when radio-active fuel rods fell down a shaft and, later, the unrelated discovery that some of the graphite modulators in the reactor core were warped. Reports of high levels of leukemia in the area (1987) have been challenged in later studies.
The viability of the station was dependent on the continued export of electricity to England, but falling electricity prices and operational problems meant Chapelcross generated its last electricity in June 2004. A lengthy decommissioning process will follow.