AN independent Scotland embracing nuclear power would be a “catastrophic financial decision”, an energy politics expert has warned.
The Scottish Government remains opposed to the use of nuclear power to make up the energy supply mix ”under current technology”.
Only one remaining nuclear power station remains in operation in Scotland at Torness in East Lothian.
The SNP Government has pointed to higher costs, including for consumers, in generating nuclear power compared to renewables.
But the UK Government has made clear its intention to use nuclear power as part of the net zero energy mix and has plans to bring forward small modular reactors as well as larger nuclear developments.
Energy is mostly reserved to the UK Government, but the Scottish Government has an effective veto on new nuclear power stations being built north of the border through planning regulations.
Writing exclusively for the Herald’s Scotland’s Future series, Dr David Toke, reader in energy politics at the University of Aberdeen, has warned that a future independent Scotland turning to nuclear power would be a “catastrophic financial decision”.
Dr Toke has pointed to the UK Government spending around £1,000 per consumer to EDF to build the Sizewell C nuclear power station, warning that with Scotland’s “consumer base a tenth of the size of the UK”, it could cost each Scottish consumer up to £10,000 in the event of new facilities being built in an independent Scotland.
He added: “It would be irresponsible to consider such a venture, especially considering that the inflexible operation of nuclear power effectively switches off wind farms, thus wasting their production.”
Dr Toke has also thrown hot water over the UK Government’s talk of small nuclear reactors, saying the idea is “based on fantasy”, adding that “small reactors were long ago abandoned as being even more expensive than large ones”.
Dr Toke has insisted that “it is now obvious that serving our energy needs from renewables using cheap long term fixed price contracts to pay the renewable operators is the cheapest and most secure source of energy for consumers”.
He added: “Developing more oil and gas to be sold on the global markets to the highest (currently extremely high) bidder does nothing for Scottish energy security, consumers’ bills, and certainly does nothing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Whether independent or still part of the Union, Scotland and the rest of the UK will continue to support each other making use of the increasingly extensive system of high voltage electricity interconnectors between Scotland and England.
“There are now three of these, with another being planned along the east coast. It will make sense to continue to have a common system operator which will oversee the balancing of the British electricity system, with Scotland exporting increasing quantities of renewable energy to England.”
Nicola Sturgeon was pressed yesterday by opponents over whether her Government will now reconsider nuclear after reports that Green politicians in Germany are not ruling out looking at nuclear in a desperate bid to wean the country off reliance on Russian oil and gas amid the Ukraine war.
Ahead of the Scottish Government’s updated energy strategy being published, the First Minister has reiterated the SNP’s opposition to nuclear power.
She said: “I think that we should build our energy mix on the basis of Scotland’s assets and priorities.
“Germany does not have anywhere near the renewable energy potential that Scotland has. For example, offshore wind has massive potential for Scotland, so let us continue to build our low-carbon renewable energy mix and do so in a way that is right for Scotland.”
Last week, SNP Net Zero Secretary Michael Matheson confirmed that the Scottish Government has no intention to open up to the idea of small nuclear reactors.
He said: “The reality is that, although small modular reactors represent a change in construction type, the technology is the same, by and large, on a smaller scale.
“As we have set out in our energy strategy, under existing technologies, we do not support new nuclear energy provision.
“Although there is a change in terms of scale and in the nature of its construction, in terms of the principle of the nuclear process, it remains the same, and it is not a new technology in that sense.”