A NUCLEAR power station has been granted an extra five years of life, it has been confirmed.

Hartlepool Nuclear Power Station was due to close in 2019 but is now likely to remain open until 2024.

A new visitor centre, which cost about £1m, has been built by EDF and opened its doors to visitors earlier today (Tuesday).

Afterwards a spokesman for EDF confirmed the station will remain open for five years longer than was previously planned.

The new visitor centre at Hartlepool Nuclear Power Station has an exhibition centre and classroom as well as offices for Natural England and Hartlepool Countryside Wardens.

Hartlepool MP, Iain Wright, attended the opening of the centre which will be primarily used for schools and other educational groups to go on tours of the station.

Mr Wright stressed the station was vital for the area’s economy. He said: “This new centre is an excellent way of connecting local residents and visitors to the working life of the power stations, and also increasing understanding of the importance of nuclear power to our energy infrastructure.”

Andy Spurr, managing director nuclear generation said: "EDF Energy enjoys strong support from the community around Hartlepool and we are committed to being as open as possible here in Teesside and at all our nuclear power stations in the UK.”

The station, the first in the UK to open close to a major urban centre, started generating electricity in 1983 and generates enough low carbon electricity for about two million homes.

Originally planned in 1967 and designed in 1969, the station was at one time expected to shut down in 2009. Since then its life has been extended several times after permission was granted by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate. The idea of building a new, replacement station was suggested by previous operators British Energy, but was opposed by environmental groups.

The Visitor Centre, which is about the size of a five-a-side court, will be open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 4pm. All plant tours require advanced booking. Visitors who have pre-booked will be given an introductory talk about how the station operates, before being given a guided tour through selected parts of the plant. Visits can be booked by ringing Alex Hawes 01429-853582.