Scotland rejects UK nuclear expansion plans in favor of renewables

Publish date: October 16, 2007

Written by: Charles Digges

NEW YORK - In a dramatic departure from its previous position, Scotland’s Ministry of Energy has urged the government of the United Kingdom to drop “short sighted” plans for developing new nuclear power stations throughout the country, and has formally rejected any new reactors slated to be built in Scotland.

The rejection by Scottish Energy Minister Jim Mather to further construction of nuclear power plants in Scotland boldly throws a wrench into the works of UK plans to move further in a nuclear direction in the interest of reducing carbon emissions. It is also a bold statement issued by a European political underdog to pursue green energy strategies by using money allocated to nuclear power development by one of the strongest European governments.

Analysts say that Mather’s bold assertion could act as an example to other small European enclaves that think big nuclear peddlers are the only way they can obtain secured low-carbon emission energy.

Mather issued the call at a conference last week where UK Energy Minister Malcolm Wickes announced the go-ahead for a wind energy scheme in Devon and told of moves to speed up the planning process for green power developments.

Mather told the wind energy industry annual conference in Glasgow that supporters of nuclear power argued it was needed to meet energy needs and a reduction in emissions, according to Scottish press reports.

Scotland has enough renewables to forgo nuclear power

"We feel those claims are desperate and hollow, particularly in the Scottish context," said Mather, according to a transcript of his statements at the conference on October 10th.

"Scotland has vast resources of renewable energy – enough to meet our demands for power several times over."

There was also "tremendous opportunity" to invest in clean fossil fuel technology, said Mather. "Let me be absolutely clear – the (Scottish) Government completely rejects the development of dangerous, unnecessary and costly new nuclear power stations in Scotland. And I call on the UK Government to abandon its short-sighted plans to support an expansion in nuclear capacity and instead to focus its energies on providing the investment in new renewable technologies that have the long-term promise that we know can be delivered."

UK forgoes public consultations on nuke power
Mather further struck at the UK government position of expanding nuclear power, saying; “: "The UK government has already made its mind to develop new nuclear power stations without properly considering the alternatives, or even allowing the public to consider the alternatives as part of this consultation.”

Scotland’s formal submission to the UK government consultation on nuclear energy says Scotland already produces more energy than it consumes, and new technologies are "far more secure" than relying on finite imported uranium resources.

The submission also says renewable generation produces less carbon emissions than nuclear power, and that having no new nuclear power removes the need for transportation and disposal of nuclear waste – and the potential terrorist threats involved, Nuclear Energy International reported.

Wicke told the British Wind Energy Association conference a decision on nuclear power expansion would be taken before the end of the year.

"We are finishing a consultation on nuclear – a difficult, complex and still controversial issue," he said, according to reports. "The Government will make its own judgment on that before Christmas."

Scotland can veto any nuclear decision
Whatever the conclusions of the government, however, the Scottish government can veto any new nuclear plants through its right to refuse consent for onshore power stations over 50MW under the British Electricity Act 1989, said Nuclear Energy International.

This right of refusal was further reinforced by the Scottish Parliament in March 2002, when a majority voted for a motion reiterating that Scottish ministers accountable to parliament keep the right to refuse nuclear power stations now and in the future.