UK Energy Minister’s nuclear plants plea rejected by Scottish Government
THE Scottish Government has rejected UK Energy Minister Greg Hands plea to “rethink” his stance on new nuclear power stations in Scotland.
The Tory minister said it’s a “great pity” Scotland has opposed the construction of any fission power plants amid the cost of living crisis and that he would be willing to sit down with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Energy Secretary Michael Matheson to hear their concerns .
It has been a longstanding Scottish Government and SNP policy to oppose nuclear, with the focus instead on the just transition to renewables.
The Scottish Greens said the minister’s plea shows that the Tories “cannot be trusted with the environment”.
Hands made the comments during a round table with Scottish journalists in London, where he also said there was no reason to re-assess licenses for fossil fuel projects in the North Sea – despite persistent warnings from the United Nations on any more oil and gas fields being brought into production.
Scottish Net Zero Secretary Matheson has previously said safety concerns are the main reason the government has rejected any new nuclear sites, adding that “it is probably the most expensive form of electricity you can choose to produce”.
Following the closure of Hunterston B in North Ayrshire in January, due to cracks found in graphite bricks which make up the reactor core, the only functioning nuclear power station in Scotland is the Torness plant near Dunbar, East Lothian.
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The UK Government has said it will not “impose” any new nuclear power on Scotland despite plans to approve up to eight new fission reactors – by 2030, boosting overall capacity up to 24GW by 2050.
But Hands has insisted the Scottish Government should reconsider its stance.
When The National pointed out that nuclear power is expensive, takes a long time to be brought online and produces harmful toxic waste, Hands said: “This country has an amazing safety record when it comes to nuclear.
“It’s a very well-regulated sector, the UK has got some of the most and best-respected nuclear regulators and nuclear safety system anywhere in the world.”
He added: “I’m happy to sit down and talk with the Scottish Government and Nicola Sturgeon – my door is open – with Michael Matheson, too, and take them through why I think nuclear is a big part of the rest of the UK’s energy renaissance and how it’s a pity Scotland is not going to be part of that.”
Hands claimed that the best time to have pushed more nuclear power in the UK would have been during Tony Blair’s time as prime minister. Blair at the time said there was no case for investment in the future of nuclear.
Hands added: “The best time to have decided on new nuclear would have been then, the next best time is now. So we want to be getting on with it, we’ve got 11 of the 12 stations going off-production before the end of this decade. That is quite a lot of generation that needs to be replaced.
“I think it’s a great pity that the Scottish Government has effectively closed down nuclear in Scotland, even though Scotland has got an amazing nuclear tradition.
“When I saw the closure of the Hunterston plant for example, I know it had reached the end of its life, but for 31 years it had produced enough clean, low-carbon energy to every home in Scotland. It’s a phenomenal achievement.
“It would be great to see Scotland back into the nuclear picture. I would urge the Scottish Government to revisit their ideological opposition to nuclear.”
Maggie Chapman, the Scottish Greens MSP for North East Scotland, criticized the comments and said that renewables are “cheaper, cleaner and safer” than nuclear, and are easier to scale up.
She said: “Time and again the Tories have shown that they cannot be trusted with our environment. Nuclear power is neither safe nor reliable, and it leaves a toxic legacy that could last for centuries.
“As Hinkley Point shows us, it is also very expensive. Any expansion would take years, and need to be paid for on top of skyrocketing bills.
“The climate crisis is the biggest threat we face and it needs real and immediate action, not the endless drilling and environmental vandalism offered by the Tories.
“What we need is proper investment in a just transition to renewables. Scotland has a huge potential, and the shift would help us to tackle the climate emergency, drive down energy prices.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said that it is “absolutely clear” in its opposition to nuclear energy plants in Scotland.