Letters: The failure to build nuclear power plants was a huge strategic failure

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YOUR story on the front page today about nuclear power, and its impending total absence in Scotland (“SNP has not studied the impact of nuclear plant closures on bills”, The Herald, February 17), is long awaited. The failure to build nuclear power stations has been the greatest strategic energy failure of Scottish and UK governments of all stripes in the last 40 years. It is therefore not surprising that today we are facing an energy crisis, with thousands of families faced with the choice between heating or feeding themselves.

You write that “concerns persist about the safety of nuclear power and the environmental impact of disposing of harmful wastes”. Nuclear energy is incredibly safe. How many people have died as a result of the construction of nuclear power plants? And how many died during the production of fossil fuels; how many will die as the climate changes and large areas of our planet become uninhabitable or unproductive as we burn these fuels?

I have never understood the security concerns about nuclear energy and wonder if they arise from a confusion between the production of civilian nuclear energy and the spectacular and terrifying power of nuclear weapons. Same basic science, very different technologies. Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant destroyed by massive earthquake and tsunami; it did not explode.

Concerns about radiation from spent nuclear fuel have also been exaggerated. Small amounts of radiation are a normal part of our environment and if you live in Aberdeen with bits of granite around you are likely to receive more than the average dose in the UK. But I don’t hear anyone calling for the evacuation of Aberdeen; not yet anyway.

You point out that the Scottish Government’s vision statement refers to “increasing interest in the development of new nuclear technologies”. I assume that means nuclear fusion, which is the bringing together of hydrogen isotope atoms, rather than fission, which is the splitting of large atoms, usually uranium. Nuclear fusion produces less radiation than fission, but if the government thinks it’s going to cross the horizon and solve our energy crisis, I suggest it think again: technology was just on the horizon when I was university, and that was 50 years ago. since.

It is time for Holyrood to stop issuing empty vision statements and get down to solving the current problems with our energy supply, problems that are at least partly of its own making.

Doug Maughan, Dunblane.

* ONCE AGAIN we learn of the lack of foresight shown by the Scottish Government. With the closure of Hunterston B, it is likely that Scotland will have to import more energy from elsewhere in the UK when adequate wind energy supply is not available. Scotland has just one nuclear power station left at Torness, which is due to close in 2028. Questions are being raised about Scotland’s ability to meet its emissions reduction targets when the time comes when there is no will be no nuclear power available here. Additionally, as things stand, there are concerns about security of supply in Scotland when Torness reaches the end of its operational life.

Westminster government and Rolls-Royce are investing in research into small modular reactors. The Scottish Government is currently awaiting developments concerning “new nuclear technologies” and remains resistant to any new nuclear power station applying the current technologies envisaged. Hopefully in its updated energy strategy soon to be published, the Scottish Government will set out its position on the situation after the closure of Torness and its effects on both security of supply in Scotland and the estimated costs of supply to customers.

Ian W Thomson, Lenzie.

I PIONEER PENICILLIN

CHRISTOPHER W Ide (Letters, February 16) says the discovery of penicillin prevented many disabilities and that point certainly resonated with me. In 1947/48, as a young child, I was diagnosed with osteomyelitis, a painful bone disease, in my leg. I was treated at Victoria Hospital in Glasgow with four daily injections of penicillin, and was discharged, cured, two weeks later.

Later that year, my parents were asked to take me to a lecture (to students, I presume) to be used to demonstrate the healing effects of the new miracle drug. Also in the anteroom where we waited was a young woman who had suffered from osteomyelitis for many years and had undergone many painful procedures for what was now in her case a chronic condition. At that time she still had an open wound in her leg. She was the “pre-penicillin” patient and I was one of the first “post-penicillin” patients.

As a child, my main memory is the speaker asking me to demonstrate my fitness by running around the back of the room. Upon reaching the back, I slipped and fell – much to my embarrassment and the amusement of the audience.

Marie Methley, Kirkintilloch.

ANDREW’S LACK OF DRESS SENSE

YOU are wearing a picture of Prince Andrew in Grenadier Guards uniform (“Queen may have to help fund settlement of Andrew’s sex affair”, The Herald, February 17).

Someone claiming to be something they are not entitled to is often referred to in the Royal Marines as a Walt, as in Walter Mitty. This could for example be applied to someone wearing a badge on their left sleeve that says they passed the Commando course when in fact they didn’t.

Perhaps someone in the chain of command could bring this to Prince Andrew’s attention.

Tom Pitt, Glasgow.

SPECIAL MEMORIES

I was intrigued to spot a familiar face from many years ago in your Remember when… today feature, Harry Towb’s (“Over the Bridge at the King’s”, The Herald, February 17). Of course, he didn’t come to Scotland just to appear in a play. He appeared several times a day, every day of the week, in a famous TV advert, which said something like: “Why am I coming to Scotland? Because your beer is good; your special tartan is good .”

George F Campbell, Glasgow.


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