The energy minister, Fergus Ewing MSP, has responded to concerns regarding the future of Hunterston ‘B’, and believes that the station will continue to operate safely through the remainder of its life until 2023.

At the Scottish Parliament, Cunninghame North MSP Kenneth Gibson asked: “If there is any possible threat to public safety, can the Energy Minister confirm that remedial action will be taken immediately and that if, in the interests of safety, Hunterston B has to close sooner than 2023, hundreds of people will continue to be employed at Hunterston through the commencement of a decommissioning process that will last for several decades at least?” Mr Ewing replied: “The life extension to 2023 was granted fairly recently and a very rigorous process is in application.The Scottish Government is regularly in contact with the company, and the company is happy to take an open and transparent approach. I am hopeful that, although difficulties may arise, they will be dealt with in a businesslike and efficient way and that the station will continue to operate effectively and safely throughout the remainder of its life.” Alison Johnstone of the Scottish Greens asked: “What role does the Scottish Government have in ensuring the safety of nuclear power stations? We should not be alarmist about the Hunterston cracks, but they make the overwhelming case for a full environmental impact assessment and public scrutiny of any decision to extend the lifetime of these plants.” She asked if the Government would support a full environmental impact assessment of any lifetime extension for Hunterston.

Mr Ewing responded: “First, let me confirm that the office for nuclear regulation, to which I spoke to, has confirmed what it has made absolutely clear. As the regulator, it has provided an assurance that there are no immediate safety implications for Hunterston B and that it is safe to continue to generate electricity.

“I can assure Ms Johnstone that the environmental case was considered when Hunterston B’s life was extended to 2023. That extension was made two years ago, and it has already been fully discussed and reported in the Parliament.

“In addition to that and the life extension case, it is my understanding of the process from my discussions with the ONR and previously that there is a periodic safety assessment. The next periodic safety assessment is due to be carried out in 2016.

“I assure Ms Johnstone that the defect that has been found was not unexpected. On the contrary, it was to be expected and was known about by both EDF, the operator, and the ONR. I am sure that no one in the chamber would wish to be unduly alarmist about highly technical matters on which the regulator has been closely involved in working with the company.”