Nuclear energy chiefs under fire over cheaper than renewables claims

A COALITION of energy experts have hit out at claims by the nuclear industry – warning that the SNP Government embracing the “extremely costly and inflexible technology” will add to fuel poverty as consumers grapple with the cost-of-living crisis.

The Scottish Government was criticised last week after admitting it had failed to carry out any specific modelling on the impact of Scotland’s last two nuclear power stations closing down on energy prices.

Energy policy is largely reserved to Westminster, but the Scottish Government can effectively veto power developments over 50MW being built and is opposed to nuclear power.

But the UK Government is pressing ahead with nuclear power being a key part in the future energy mix, alongside renewables.

READ MORE: SNP ministers failed to explore impact of nuclear power station closures on energy bills

The Nuclear Industries Association has claimed that the “low and predictable operating costs” of the technology make it a cheaper option than renewables for the Scottish Government, claiming the energy has saved consumers on average £152 “since the cost of living crisis began”. But SNP Net Zero, Energy and Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has disputed the analysis.

Now, analysis by organisations claims that the industry body has distorted the figures by ignoring capital costs and the money needed to decommission former sites as well as funding needed to manage radioactive waste.

The coalition is claiming that nuclear power costs £44 more than renewables over the same period of time, adding the calculation doesn’t include a £2,000 eventual cost per person living in Britain today for decommissioning UK’s nuclear facilities.

The organisations have stressed that calculating renewables without including the capital costs would create an effective price per MWh of zero – adding that nuclear cost Scotland £104 million more than if it had been generated from renewable sources.

The analysis concludes that it equates to every electricity customer in Scotland paying £44 more just to keep nuclear going.

The current cost for renewable electricity is between £20 and £40 per MWh, which the coalition says is in stark contrast against the £100 per MWh for new nuclear at Hinkley Point C.

Commenting on the analysis, Keith Baker of the Common Weal Energy Group, said: “Building new nuclear plants will only exacerbate fuel poverty.

READ MORE: SNP Government to continue opposition to nuclear power ‘to keep energy bills low’

“Any talk of a nuclear renaissance, particularly when spiralling energy prices are pushing more and more households into fuel poverty, smacks of desperation from an industry that should already be consigned to the dustbin of history. It’s a simple case of buy now, pay now, pay even more later.”

Stuart Parkinson, executive director of scientists for global responsibility: “There is strong evidence of close institutional and financial ties between the civilian and military nuclear industries in the UK – both in the public sector and the private sector.

“These help to bolster the influence of nuclear interests – even though the case for civilian use of nuclear power is markedly inferior to that of renewables on the grounds of economics, speed of deployment, environmental sustainability, safety and security”.

Paul Dorfman, chair of the nuclear consulting group, said: “The central message, repeated again and again, that a new generation of nuclear will be clean and safe is a fiction.The reality is nuclear is an extremely costly and inflexible technology with the potential to cause significant harm.

“Not forgetting that coastal nuclear is at ramping risk from climate-driven sea-level rise, storm surge and flooding – with nuclear industry and regulatory mitigation efforts becoming increasingly obsolete.”

Scottish Greens energy and climate spokesperson Mark Ruskell said: “You only need to look at Hinckley Point to realise that Nuclear is very expensive, and the UK Government seem desperate to pass that cost directly onto energy consumers. Not only that, nuclear power generates a legacy of toxic waste to pass on to future generations.

HeraldScotland: Scottish Greens MSP Mark RuskellScottish Greens MSP Mark Ruskell

“Scotland has amazing potential in clean renewable energy, but it requires the political will to meet that. With Greens in government Scotland is paving the way for expansion, but while energy policy is reserved we’ve seen vast subsidies channelled into fossil fuels and nuclear by successive U.K. Governments, with no indication that is going to change anytime soon.”

But Tom Greatrex, the chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, has insisted that “Scotland’s experience shows, and every expert analysis attests, that renewables and nuclear working together is the most cost-effective route to decarbonisation.”

He added: The energy crisis has shown we need to cut our reliance on fossil fuels, and we need all the low-carbon power we can get to achieve that.

“Our cost calculations are based on the fact that nuclear power is sold on the market at £45/MWh. The low price is a consequence of nuclear’s low and predictable operating costs, and the cost of building the stations being paid off some time ago. The Hinkley Point C strike price is on a par with renewable projects financed through contracts for difference (CFD) with offshore wind and onshore wind averaging £97.38 and £95.55 respectively.

“All energy sources have to deal with their own decommissioning and nuclear is the only industry which tracks, safely-manages and pays for its own legacy.

“Decommissioning the AGR fleet and Sizewell B will cost less than one-fifth of what these critics have claimed, and the cost will be spread over 100 years according to the National Audit Office. Money has already been set aside in the Nuclear Liabilities Fund to cover the substantial majority of these costs.”


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