HARTLEPOOL nuclear power station, closed after a safety scare last month, may not re-open until the end of the year, power company EDF has announced in the past hour.

The energy giant closed Hartlepool and its sister plant in Lancashire after finding a boiler defect at Heysham in June.

The company said all the boilers associated with the two nuclear reactors at Heysham 1, and with the two nuclear reactors at Hartlepool, would be inspected to make sure they were safe.

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It estimated the nuclear plants would be running again within eight weeks but, in an update, the company now says they may not re-open until the end of the year.

Any delay will exacerbate fears of power cuts if the UK suffers a harsh winter.