MORE than 50 groups have already applied to tour the Sizewell B nuclear power station – three months before a new visitors centre is due to open.

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Work on the new centre started earlier this month – five years after the former centre was closed and tours suspended in the light of heightened terrorism fears.

Tours of the UK’s only pressurised water reactor nuclear power station will have to be pre-booked and will mainly be for schools and other groups. But individual members of the public can apply.

The identity of all new visitors to the site will be subject to scrutiny by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), the UK nuclear safety and security agency, and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the armed police force which patrols around Sizewell and other nuclear plants.

The ONR has formally approved the opening of a new visitors’ centre and tours which will not reach sensitive parts of the power station.

Niki Spatchett, Sizewell B community liaison officer, said groups already applying for tours included schools, universities and WIs. “Work on the new visitors centre has only just started and will not be ready until later this year but there is already tremendous interest,” she said.

Sizewell will be the first of EDF Energy’s nuclear sites to re-open a visitors’ centre. Others are planned in a strategy aimed at re-engaging with a wider public.

The temporary centre, to be created by adding a glazed extension to two “mobile” training classrooms, will be replaced with a new state-of-the-art, interactive visitors’ centre if plans for a £6billion Sizewell C plant go ahead.

An EDF spokesman said: “We are expecting to attract between 7,500 and 10,000 visitors each year. The majority of these are expected to be school trips for children of eleven years and upwards. They will be given an introductory talk about how the station operates, before being given a guided tour of part of the plant.”

It is understood no visitors will be allowed inside the nuclear “island” – the ultra secure inner area containing the nuclear generating plant, reactor cooling systems and control room.

The centre will be open from Monday to Friday, between 10am to 3pm. Additional opening on the weekends may be arranged for special events, such as station open days or VIP tours.

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