Chapelcross

On 2nd May 1959 the first Nuclear Power Station in Scotland was officially opened on the site of the disused airfield at Chapelcross by Sir John Crabbe, Lord Lieutenant for Dumfriesshire.

After WW2 and the beginning of the cold war Britain committed to nuclear weapons as part of its defence of the country but nuclear weapons need quantities of plutonium that can only be made in reasonable amounts in a nuclear reactor. Permission was therefore given for new reactors to be built.

Annan was chosen as one of the new sites. The plan for heat from the reactors to be turned into steam which could be used in steam turbines to generate cheap electricity was very popular with locals in Annan who therefore looked forward to the new development.

The reactor site was also a good choice because it was near the River Annan to provide water for the cooling towers, major power lines were nearby so a connection to the electricity grid was available and the abandoned railway line that ran past the site to the Solway provided an easy route for the discharge of cooling tower water.

Work began in 1955 using 2000 workers from all over the country. The sandstone bedrock provided a base for the concrete structures that would house the four reactors. The concrete was up to eight feet thick and weighed 9000 tonnes. Massive boilers were made to generate electricity and four were erected the outside of each reactor building. 8000 silver fuel elements were installled into the graphite core of each reactor and soon the site was ready for testing. Each of the four cooling towers were 36 feet in diameter, 71 feet high and weighed 400 tons.

They began at a very low scale with many checks on performance but these gradually increased until the four reactors were at full strength. Annan was at the forefront of nuclear research and staff from Chapelcross helped commission other Power Stations around the world.

2004 finally saw decommissioning begin at Annan and in 2007 the cooling towers were demolished, removing the sight that people living in Annan associated with ‘coming home.’ Thousands came back to Annan just to see the demolition and a DVD was produced to record the occasion.