A NEW visitor centre at Hartlepool nuclear power station will give thousands of people the chance to see behind the scenes of one of the country's largest producers of low-carbon electricity.

Planning permission for the centre has gone to Hartlepool Borough Council. If approved, it will be built near the site's existing training centres.

The centre will also house the Partnership for Nature, incorporating the Teesmouth Field Centre, Natural England and Hartlepool Borough Council countryside wardens.

This development is part of a national initiative by EDF Energy to improve public accessibility at its nuclear power stations in the UK.

Hartlepool's station director, Simon Parsons, said: "EDF Energy is committed to improving the transparency and openness surrounding our nuclear operations.

"The station at Hartlepool attracts massive public interest as we have two reactors here, and we welcome the opportunity to be able to show people how we generate safe, low-carbon electricity for over 1.5million homes. This visitor centre will allow us to introduce people to our operation at Hartlepool power station in a safe, informative and attractive environment."

The centre is scheduled to open early next year and will employ a centre supervisor and guides. It will normally be open on weekdays and it is expected it will attract up to 10,000 visitors a year.

Most of the visitors will be children over ten on school trips, butmembers of the public will be able to visit by appointment.

Visitors will be given an introductory talk about how the station operates, before being given a guided tour of parts of the plant.

Earlier this year, it was announced the firm was planning to extend the operation of the power plant until 2026 by investing £50m in the site.

The move, which would safeguard hundreds of jobs, was revealed as the Government published an Energy Bill, in May, designed to deliver long-term contracts to encourage investment in nuclear and renewable energy.