Take a look inside Hartlepool's nuclear power plant as decommissioning work begins

The decades-long process of decommissioning Hartlepool's nuclear power station has begun.

Preparations are being made for the first stage, 'defuelling', to begin in March 2024 - a process that will take around five years and will cease electricity production.

That is just the beginning of the process and will allow for decommissioning to begin which will take between 15 and 20 years. The reactors will then be left dormant for a further 80 years before they can be safely dismantled.

As the process formally begins, ITV Tyne Tees was invited inside to take a look at the past, present and future of nuclear power in Hartlepool.

What does the plant do?

The power station was established in 1969 and its two atom-splitting reactors now supply electricity to one million homes every minute.

Splitting the atom releases heat, which is converted to steam. The steam powers massive turbines in generators to produce electricity for the national grid.

Around 700 people work at the site, 70% of whom live locally.

Are there plans for nuclear power at the site once the current plant ceases production?

This question is hard to answer for certain.

Hartlepool was confirmed as a 'designated nuclear site' in the Government's 7 April energy strategy, which promises more investment in nuclear energy.

The Prime Minister told ITV Tyne Tees the government is "looking at several [reactors] on this site."

This has not been confirmed, and the GMB Union has asked for clarity.

"Hartlepool is in an almost unique position to take advantage of the future nuclear opportunities in the UK," said Mark Lees, Plant Manager.

“We’ve got some really bright minds and that really makes the job worth doing," added engineer Nicola Hopper.