UK Government will not ‘impose’ new nuclear power stations on Scotland, says minister

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said it is “up to people in Edinburgh to decide what their nuclear policy is”.

SNP Energy Secretary Michael Matheson said nuclear power has an environmental impact, raises safety concerns and drives up household bills.

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The UK Government has announced plans to boost nuclear, wind, solar and hydrogen in its long-awaited energy strategy.

Torness nuclear power station near Dunbar. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

It includes plans for eight nuclear reactors – the equivalent of one a year – to be delivered by the end of this decade.

Ministers are aiming to make 95 per cent of electricity low carbon by 2030.

However, a licensing round for new North Sea oil and gas projects is planned for the autumn to cover the “nearer term”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the strategy, including new offshore wind plans, would reduce the UK’s dependence on foreign sources of energy.

Mr Kwarteng told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland program the UK Government is planning new nuclear reactors across England and Wales, saying there is “huge appetite” for this “particularly in Wales”.

But he added: “We have no plans to impose nuclear reactors in Scotland.

“It is a returned affair, that is up to people in Edinburgh to decide what their nuclear policy is.”

Earlier, Mr Matheson told the same programme: “Our position is very clear on nuclear, we don’t believe nuclear needs to be part of future energy mix here in Scotland and we have got no intention of taking forward nuclear developments.”

He said: “My concern is if the UK Government are so wedded to developing further nuclear sites, not only is there environmental risk associated with that, but there is also the issue that it is likely to drive up the cost of people’s household bills. “

Pushed on whether the Scottish Government would use its planning powers to block any move by UK ministers to set up a nuclear plant in Scotland, Mr Matheson said: “Yeah.

“The Scottish Government is not in favor of nuclear power and we don’t see it being part of our future energy mix, and I don’t see any likelihood of that changing in the future.”

Scotland currently has only one nuclear power station, the Torness plant in East Lothian, after the Hunterston B site in North Ayrshire closed in January.

Mr Kwarteng said UK ministers believe “the only way you can get decarbonised baseloads – continuous power that is decarbonised – is nuclear”.

He added: “I don’t know what the answer is the Scottish Government has to that question, but we are very clear that nuclear power has to be an important part of a decarbonised energy mix in the future.”

Under the UK Government’s plans a new body, Great British Nuclear, will be launched to bolster the UK’s nuclear capacity with the hope of up to 24 gigawatts (GW) of electricity by 2050 coming from the source of power, 25 per cent of the projected electricity demand.

Elsewhere, Mr Matheson said UK ministers had not provided a copy of the energy strategy to the Scottish Government and had not engaged with it, which he said was “completely unacceptable”.

Mr Kwarteng said there had been “quite a lot of engagement with Scottish colleagues”, adding he is “disappointed Mr Matheson has said what he has said”.

Mr Matheson said the new North Sea licensing round was “not much of a surprise”, adding: “There is an expectation there would be a further leasing round on oil and gas.

“Keep in mind any new licensing round for oil and gas will mean that it’s probably five, six, plus years before any oil or gas will be produced.

“And oil and gas will continue to be an important part of our energy mix as we go forward.”

However, Mr Matheson said the “backbone” of the future energy sector was likely to be offshore renewables, particularly wind.

He said: “If we continue our dependence on oil and gas and fossil fuels, then we’ll find ourselves experiencing the same problem we have just now, with volatility in the market and sky-high domestic energy prices.”

He added: “The Scottish Government’s position is very clear on oil and gas.

“Any new oil and gas reserves that are being opened up need to be compatible with meeting our net zero objectives.

“It’s not just the Scottish Government’s view, actually, it’s also the view of the Committee on Climate Change that’s the independent adviser to both the Scottish and UK governments on these matters.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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