Nuclear power is virtually CO2 emission free and currently provides around 40% of Scotland’s and 20% of the UK’s baseload electricity. The pledge by the SNP and their Green allies that they will refuse to sanction replacement nuclear capacity in Scotland, has placed us on the fast-track to electricity blackouts. In fact this situation nearly occurred last winter when Hunterston B was shut down while leaks in the cooling system were under repair and when an overhead coal conveyor at Longannet broke down, closing that facility. Had it not been for the unseasonably warm temperatures, we would have faced phased blackouts across Scotland. That is how close we came to disaster.
It is completely irresponsible for the SNP to place Scotland in this ludicrous position. It is also a great irony that SNP policies will compel Gordon Brown to build all of the next generation of nuclear power stations in England, forcing us to rely on nuclear-generated electricity imports from our neighbours to avoid blackouts and shut-downs. This kind of populist tub-thumping, playing on the irrational fears of some sectors of the public who regard atomic energy as something akin to witchcraft, was well illustrated by the Church of Scotland who recently published a report calling nuclear power plants ‘evil.’ Such breath-taking foolishness does not serve Scotland well.
Energy is at the top of the political agenda in Europe because of two vital concerns – security of supply and climate change. On the one hand we are becoming increasingly dependent on Russia for supplies of oil and gas at a time when relations between the EU and Moscow have fallen to a new low; while on the other hand our desire to cut carbon emissions and reduce global warming is driving us towards a future where we have to drastically reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Renewables will have a vital role to play in a diverse energy mix in the future and Scotland has a chance to become a global leader in wind, tidal and wave power. But such forms of energy production cannot be relied upon to provide constant base load. Wind farms, for example, can be unreliable electricity suppliers because they are dependent on a specific range of wind speeds and these speeds cannot be guaranteed to occur during times of peak demand.
With the technology for storing electricity in bulk not yet available, it is still necessary to have traditional generating capacity as back up to provide security of supply. Nuclear plants are the best way to provide this generating capacity