ENERGY giant EDF is to spend £500,000 creating a new control centre in Macmerry to deal with a potential nuclear emergency after ScottishPower closed EDF's current back-up centre at the former Cockenzie Power Station.

The owners of Torness, near Dunbar, have a statutory duty to maintain a strategic co-ordination centre independent of the nuclear power station’s site in case of an emergency considered large scale enough to put the public at risk.

Now it has been revealed EDF has agreed to spend just under £500,000 upgrading rooms at the council-owned Penston House in Macmerry to create office accommodation to suit its needs. The firm will then enter into a 30-year lease with East Lothian Council, which will have free use of the office space when it is not required, paying the local authority just under £40,000 each year to retain the offices.

The offices, which will be the Torness Strategic Co-ordination Centre (TSCC), will be retained for use should an incident occur at the nuclear power station which cannot be contained within the site.

An off-site incident is described in the Torness Emergency Plan as when there is a “hazardous condition which results, or is likely to result, in the need to consider urgent countermeasures to protect the public outside the site security fence from a radiological hazard”.

The centre will be a hub to bring emergency services and essential support together.

As well as providing space for police, ambulance, fire and coastguard liaison teams, representatives from East Lothian, Midlothian, Scottish Borders and City of Edinburgh Council would also be brought in.

Other service providers such as British Telecom, Network Rail, Scottish Water and SEPA are also on the list to join the centre’s team of emergency co-ordinators.

A spokesperson for EDF said: "We have been working with the council to identify a new location for the centre following the closure of Cockenzie Power Station. We are happy that work is now under way and look forward to its completion."

The council oversaw tenders for the contract, awarding the work to the lowest bidder, William Coates Ltd of Edinburgh.