The UK Government’s publication of their new Energy White Paper shows that they are still very much out of sync with Scotland. With nuclear power at the centre of Johnson’s great green revolution, Scotland and Westminster are once more at loggerheads. The UK Government argues that we must examine all renewable and low to zero carbon options as we turn from fossil fuels and face the climate crisis head on. But the White Paper reveals that the UK government are in discussions with French energy giant, EDF, to build a £20million nuclear power plant at Sizewell in Suffolk. In addition, they plan to develop Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) or pop-up nuclear power plants built in factories rather than involving heavy construction, as well as research and development into more advanced nuclear technologies. This is a problem for Scotland given that energy is a reserved power and we have very different plans for our renewable development. The Scottish Government rejects the case for nuclear power to be included in the push to net zero, arguing that our future clean energy ambitions can be met by far safer, more affordable and more environmentally sound means. Scotland is in the fortunate position of having an abundance of natural resources with 25% of Europe’s tidal and wind resource for instance. We are aware of our responsibility to the natural environment as well as our citizens and our updated Climate Plan reflects these values of fairness, wellbeing and a just transition to a greener future. Results from the recent UK wide Citizens Assembly on Climate Change indicate that it’s not just the Scots who are concerned with nuclear power. Nearly half – 46% – of assembly members strongly disagreed that nuclear should be part of the renewable energy plan citing concerns with cost, safety, long-term waste management, and damage to the local environment. For Scotland, it’s more personal than that. We already carry the weight of responsibility as home to the UK’s domestic nuclear power base; a key tenant of SNP policy is ridding Scotland of the burden of Trident when we become independent, a hugely popular pledge with the Scottish electorate. And then there’s the not insignificant matter of toxic waste and the decommissioning debacle of existing nuclear reactors such as Dounreay in Thurso, which, according to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, will take another 313 years before its regarded as a “safe site”. In addition, in 2018, the nuclear reactors at Hunterston were shut down due to concerns over cracks in the graphite core. People living close by had every right to be worried.
Left Foot Forward 30th Dec 2020 read more »