THERE will be tears and celebrations to mark the end of an era as Hinkley Point B nuclear power station stops generating electricity within days.

The shutdown of Reactor 3 on Monday, August 1, will pull the plug on 46 years of producing energy to light and heat our homes.

It follows the switching off of Reactor 4 on July 8.

Hinkley B has served us well, producing zero carbon electricity for 15 years longer than envisaged when construction started in the late 1960s.

Since it went live in 1976, it has produced enough energy to power 27million homes for three years.

The power is created by a process known as fission, which involves a neutron slamming into a larger atom, which splits into two, producing heat that makes steam to spin a turbine to create electricity.

The reactors will be defuelled over the next few years, with the waste taken to Sellafield.

The County Gazette has been given a tour of Reactor 3 by performance improvement manager Shaheed Mungur in its final throes.

Comfortingly, safety is a major priority and a tour of the five-storey premises, including standing on top of a reactor reaching temperatures of 600degsC on which you can feel the vibrations of what's going on inside, involves continual radiation checks.

Incredibly, the labyrinth of tubes, pipes and containers was designed on pen and paper in the pre-computer '60s.

The 500 workers and contractors pride themselves on a family spirit.

Station director Mike Davies has worked in several roles during his 20 years with EDF.

He said: "I've been very fortunate to have had a variety of experiences.

"It's a really interesting time.

"We've got a massive period of change.

"We've generated since 1976 and were the first of the advanced gas cooler reactors to connect to the National Grid. It's the most productive power station in history."

Mr Davies arrived early for work for the shutdown of Reactor 4.

He said: "I wanted to say thank you to everyone for everything they've done. There was some sadness. I came very close to tears.

"There was a sense of pride in everything we've achieved.

"The shutdown was a moment of celebration and poignancy as a massive plume of steam was released from the far end of the site.

"It's a physical plant, but people have an enormous connection with it.

"I'm proud of everything we've done and we're now preparing for the next stage and the emotion that comes with that has been really interesting."

Dave Stokes, who has worked at Hinkley since August 1990, said: "My dad used to work here and the best bit of advice he's ever given me was to work at a power station."

His first job was entering data into a computer, before transferring to IT, later working in communications, then in human resources before returning to the communications department.

"It's the best job in the world," said Dave, whose brother also works at Hinkley.

"The people here are great. It's like one big family.

"When station 4 came off it was a sad moment, but proud at the same time, for the people here today and our predecessors.

"So many people who have worked here all feel a big part of it."

Mechanical apprentice Ross Mark, 22, joined Horizon Nuclear Power after completing his A levels, before joining EDF.

"It's my last year as an apprentice and I want to continue in the nuclear industry," said Ross.

"It's a great opportunity especially being next door to Hinkley Point C. My future plan is to work there as a mechanical engineer.

"I enjoy the work. It's a hobby as well a a job."

Hannah Warner is approaching the end of her four-year apprenticeship as a control and instrument technician.

"I look after anything relating to pressure, level flow and temperature" said Hannah.

"I really enjoy my job. Hopefully one day I'll get a job in Hinkley C."

Hannah originally worked at a coal station in West Burton and has never looked back since transferring to the nuclear power station.

Tia Brant was born and brought up in Bridgwater and initially worked at Dungeness Power Station in Kent.

She said: "After a time I wanted to come home - Hinkley's only five minutes up the road from my home.

"I called EDF and they agreed to take me on as an apprentice.

"It was the best move of my life. I'm very happy doing what I want to do."

Shaheed Mungur, performance improvement manager, explained how Hinkley and other nuclear plants across the world are committed to working together to ensure safety standards are maintained and improved.

He said: "We openly share everything with each other."