JUST LAST WEEK UK Energy Minister Greg Hands used the suffering of the Ukrainian people to encourage the Scottish Government to reconsider its opposition to nuclear power as a means of enhancing UK energy security.
Hands must have missed the memo titled ‘Scotland has options’ detailing the much safer and cheaper alternatives to nuclear power we have. We are not dependent on Russian gas because we are already self-sufficient in domestic gas. In fact, we supply the rest of the UK with gas from the North Sea. Then there is the not-so-small matter of oil looting and the huge profits we have lost as Scots through Tory politics. And now, as we accelerate the transition from fossil fuels, we also generate nearly 100% of our own electricity from renewables.
Of course, not one to let the facts interfere, Boris Johnson and Hands also failed to explain to the public that (a) nuclear energy costs exorbitant sums and the taxpayer will foot the bill, and (b) new nuclear power plants, even the small modular reactors that so many conservatives are excited about, will not produce any significant output until the 2030s.
The British government cannot have it both ways. If they want to go green as cheaply as possible, the answer is not nuclear power. If they want to go green as quickly as possible, the answer is not nuclear. Not only that: if the whole focus is on energy security, or homeland security in general, then nuclear power plants and their toxic wastes are sitting ducks for hostile states that want to make trouble for their so-called enemies. .
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If you want to see the motivation here, it’s all about following the money – the return for investors in new nuclear energy is what neo-liberals in the Conservative Party are passionate about, not energy security.
As I have already mentioned, Scotland has options to explore outside of nuclear given its unique potential as a world leader in renewable energy, with 25% of Europe’s natural resources.
I have long advocated for a comprehensive national energy company to ensure that we make the most of this unique opportunity in a sustainable and fair way so that Scots can act as stakeholders in our natural resources, sharing the benefits rather than watching the benefits flow into the pockets. of a handful of shareholders in private companies as we have seen with oil and gas.
Just looking at the current energy crisis, it has never been more important to get this exciting national undertaking in place and I hope my colleagues at Holyrood now reconsider replacing the National Public Energy Agency for meet the twin challenges of increasing crippling energy and climate change. .
When it comes to renewable energy and innovation, Scotland would be better placed to invest massively in hydrogen than in nuclear energy. Hydrogen capacity building means a comprehensive national industrial strategy to ensure that we can become self-sufficient in terms of production and storage, manufacturing, supply chain, as well as the creation of clusters between universities, private spheres and public and government. Good for the economy, good for jobs, good for the environment, good for citizens, it’s obvious.
There are also huge other options for expanding both hydropower and geothermal heat, opening up opportunities for communities rather than seeing the benefits accrue to greedy landowners or faceless private equity firms.
Interestingly, Germany and its new coalition government seem to have gotten the message – in a world ravaged by crisis after crisis, German Economics Minister Robert Habeck hit the nail on the head recently when he declared that “more urgent than ever, we must invest in our energy sovereignty”. The German government, faced with its particular dependence on Russian energy imports, takes a holistic view of the issue, Habeck insisting that ‘it must do its utmost to become more independent and climate-neutral’ with a €200 billion program for industrial transformation by 2026. This will involve climate protection, hydrogen technology, the extension of the electric vehicle charging network and the abolition of taxes on renewable energies.Habeck has rejected calls to keep nuclear power plants online and the German public is out support this nuclear-free economy approach.
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Finally, the apparent truth in all of this is that Scotland already bears a heavy burden of responsibility for the rest of the UK – not just in our endless abundance of renewables and supplies for export, not just like the so-called “Saudi Arabia”. wind”, not only as the most innovative nation in wave and tidal energy for example, but as the nation of the United Kingdom which houses the country’s nuclear weapons.
Nuclear is a dirty word for many Scots and for good reason. This is a moving subject and, coupled with the true financial cost of nuclear power and serious security concerns, it couldn’t be further from our sense of ‘safety’.
We are vulnerable because we bear the burden of nuclear armament as the most unequal partners in this disunity of nations. We owe no government, in no crisis, any addition to this terrible toxic millstone around our necks.
So go ahead Boris Johnson, build them in your own backyard.
Scotland says no thanks to nuclear power. Again.
Douglas Chapman MP is the SNP spokesperson on defense procurement, peace and nuclear disarmament in Westminster