As the SNP ends its autumn conference, green groups resist attempts to extend nuclear power in Scotland
ENVIRONMENTAL groups have come out in opposition to attempts by the energy company EDF to persuade the SNP to extend the lives of Scotland’s two nuclear power stations.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Scotland has also dismissed claims by the energy giant that the only way for Scotland to meet its energy demands was to invest more in nuclear power.
Instead, campaigners have emphasised the importance of renewables as the main source of economic growth, jobs and sustainability.
"Independent analysis has shown that our electricity system could be powered almost entirely by renewables within two decades without the need for any gas, coal or nuclear power in Scotland.” Lang Banks
Speaking to CommonSpace, Lang Banks, the director of WWF Scotland said: "Despite EDF's claims, there's simply no need for the two remaining nuclear power stations in Scotland to have their lives further extended.
"Independent analysis has shown that our electricity system could be powered almost entirely by renewables within two decades without the need for any gas, coal or nuclear power in Scotland. The analysis also shows that Scotland would maintain security of supply and its position as an electricity-exporting nation.
"From opinion polling, we know that the majority of the Scottish public support the view that all of our nation's electricity should be generated from pollution-free renewables.
"The Scottish Government's forthcoming energy strategy provides the perfect opportunity to set out a bold vision of becoming the EU's first fully renewable electricity nation by 2030.
"Embracing such a vision would ensure that we secure the maximum economic and social benefits that would come from a transition toward a zero-carbon society."
"Despite EDF's claims, there's simply no need for the two remaining nuclear power stations in Scotland to have their lives further extended.” Lang Banks
WWF was responding to the French energy company, which owns two Scottish nuclear power stations, announcing at an SNP fringe event that it will re-started its lobbying the Scottish Government for an extension of the lives of both power stations.
Paris-based EDF took over the plants at Torness and Hunterston when previous operator British Energy plc went into administration over mounting costs of storing the highly radioactive residue created.
Paul Winkle, EDF’s Scottish business director, told the fringe meeting over the weekend that it would be possible for the Scottish nuclear plants to have their working lives extended but only subject to safety approvals. Torness in East Lothian is scheduled to close in 2030, while Hunterston-B, near Largs, is due to shut in 2023.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the nuclear power sector in Scotland was worth over £660m to the economy in 2014 employing around 2000 full-time staff. In Scotland, nuclear power accounts for nearly 12 per cent of all energy turnover from low-carbon industries compared to just 7.5 per cent in England.
In Scotland, nuclear power accounts for nearly 12 per cent of all energy turnover from low-carbon industries compared to 7.5 per cent in England.
Winkle said: “The current life for Hunterston is 2023 and Torness is 2030, and that is based on our assessment of ageing mechanisms in those plants and being absolutely sure that when they are shut down they are still safe to operate.
“In order for us to have that ability to switch the lights on anytime we want to, we need three things. We want it to be low carbon, because we need to avoid climate change. We want it to be affordable, and we want it to be reliable. And that question, what happens when the wind isn’t blowing, there are other technologies that we need to consider to ensure that security of supply.
“So I am not going to tell you what the answer is, but clearly, over time existing power stations will be closing and we need to get into a debate about how we ensure that safe, secure, reliable supply of electricity.”
"The Scottish Government's forthcoming energy strategy provides the perfect opportunity to set out a bold vision of becoming the EU's first fully renewable electricity nation by 2030.” Lang Banks
Last month, WWF Scotland was among a number of charities including Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES) which protested the decision to give a go-ahead to the new nuclear plant at Hinkley in Sussex. The main reason for campaigners objections to the Hinkley plant were the vast costs of construction and the better deals for customers if solar and hydro were invested in.
They additionally argue that Scotland’s progress in renewables capacity warrants further development of wind, hydro, solar and tidal and a rejection of nuclear. WWF Scotland’s research showed that this year, renewables generated 57 per cent of Scotland’s electricity consumption. The Scottish government in turn has set a target that by 2020 the equivalent of 100 per cent of gross annual electricity consumption will be renewables derived.
From a legal perspective, the building of any new nuclear power station in Scotland would require consent from Scottish Government Ministers under the Electricity Act of 1989.
The Scottish Government at the moment has stated it will not seek new nuclear facilities but has not been explicit in its rejection of extensions to existing ones. However, they were not avalible to comment when contacted by CommonSpace.
Picture of courtesy of Cinnead
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