SNP-Greens resist global plan to expand nuclear
The Scottish Government will resist calls to drop its opposition to nuclear power despite an agreement by 22 countries at the COP28 summit to triple the world’s output of nuclear power by 2050.
More governments are accepting nuclear as part of the green energy agenda, but the SNP-Green government in Scotland continues to oppose plans for nuclear plants north of the border.
The US, France and the UK are among the countries that have signed the declaration to raise nuclear production by the middle of the century.
Among those hoping to win contracts is aero engine maker Rolls-Royce which is the only British company on a shortlist of six firms competing to become the first manufacturer of SMRs in the UK, with a potential £20 billion up for grabs. The reactors are designed to be built in factories and assembled on site, supposedly reducing the huge cost of nuclear power stations.
Other competitors are US companies GE Hitachi, Holtec, NuScale and Westinghouse, and French giant EDF. Contracts could be awarded as early as the spring for reactors that could power the grid by the 2030s.
Scottish Greens climate spokesperson Mark Ruskell says that doubling down on nuclear energy is not the solution to the climate crisis.
He said: “Nuclear energy is costly, dangerous and out of date. It’s no kind of solution, and will leave a long and toxic legacy for generations to come. The UK experience of Hinkley Point underlines all of these problems, with delay after delay and ever-ballooning costs.
“The climate emergency is happening all around us. We simply don’t have time to waste on overpriced and dirty solutions like nuclear energy.”
Greens co-leader and government minister Patrick Harvie said the Scottish Government’s commitment to renewables will “bring huge numbers of jobs” which are “high paid” and “rewarding”, and will be better in the long-run for people living in Scotland and for the planet.
West Aberdeenshire Tory MP Andrew Bowie, who is the minister for nuclear power at Westminster, last week claimed that continued resistance to nuclear by the Scottish Government is an “act of economic vandalism”.
UK Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho added to that sentiment by saying the Scottish Government’s opposition to new nuclear power stations is “plain wrong”.
Douglas Lumsden MSP, the Scottish Conservatives’ net zero, energy and transport spokesman, said: “It’s becoming ever more clear that the SNP-Green government’s narrow-minded opposition to new nuclear is out-of-step with experts and the rest of the world.
“If we are to have a chance of meeting our ambitious net zero targets, nuclear power will have an essential role to play in our energy future.”
Torness in East Lothian is the only nuclear plant still operating in Scotland but it is expected to close by 2028, although ministers are open to extending its life cycle if conditions can be met.
An opinion poll for Britain Remade found that 55% of Scots would support new nuclear if it helped the country reach net zero targets.
Mr Ruskell welcomed the announcement that 118 countries have pledged to triple renewable energy, saying: “This is a significant step in the right direction and could be key to our shift away from climate-wrecking fossil fuels.
“Locally sourced renewable energy is the cheapest and greenest energy available. We have more and better technology available to us than ever before, all that is missing is the political will.
“I hope that this summit can be when leaders finally turn a corner and start to give renewables the investment and support that they deserve.”