Andy Cartwright’s dismissal of sustainable alternative energy sources [Herald 14 November, above] as the core providers of Scotland’s future electricity supply was, at the very least, disingenuous: it was, in fact, misleading: Mr Cartwright’s letter, by omission, suggested that our only alternative energy source is wind power. He failed to mention current investments in Scottish Tidal and Hydro Power and the massive potential of both for this country- which, in any case, already regularly exports surplus electricity.
This surplus gives Scotland- and the multi-national oil companies who are engaged in such diversification- time to complete development of more alternatives, including blue and green hydrogen.
Like other proponents of nuclear power Mr Cartwright moved on from his dismissal of alternative, sustainable energy sources to the old Thatcheristic insistence of “TINA” – there is no alternative. Again, however, his false premise is based on deliberate omission of historical evidence: after 70 years of blank cheques from governments throughout the world, multi-national energy companies will not invest in nuclear power. Money talks: they know it is not a sensible, economic, safe, reliable option.
On June 16th this year, Reuters reported that in France- frequently cited by nuclear lobbyists as a successful example of nuclear investment- at least 50% of nuclear reactors were off-line as a result of corrosion.
The same report confirmed that the struggle to complete the construction of the now notorious EPR reactor at Flammanville was 4 times over budget (nearly 13Billion Euros) and over 10 years late. Failure of materials and welding were cited as the key problems.
The implications for the UK government’s similar project at Hinckley Point in Somerset are stark reminders of the fundamental problems associated with nuclear power: faulty designs, failure of materials, containment and welding and – above all- insurmountable corrosion. Its lethal vulnerability to natural disasters (Fukushima) , human error (Dounreay, Sellafield, Chernobyl) and missile attack (Zaporizhzhia) is a separate but very serious issue.
Nuclear protagonists also refuse to acknowledge the unimaginable costs of decommissioning and nuclear waste disposal. In 1976, Westminster accepted the findings of the “Flowers Report” that “There should be no commitment to a large programme of nuclear fission power until it has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that a method exists to ensure the safe containment of long-lived highly radioactive waste for the indefinite future” .
In 2022 the UK government still has no proven method for safe storage of high level nuclear waste. On the contrary, highly radioactive, potentially lethal particles of nuclear spent fuel now contaminate the beaches and sea-bed around Dounreay in Caithness. According to SEPA- they are irretrievable. At Sellafield there are leaking ponds of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel rods for which there is still no solution. That kind of environmental destruction- for most people- makes nuclear power an unacceptable risk. The days of Scottish communities being nominated as expendable areas for such experiments with nuclear, fracking or any other gamble with safety- are over.
There is -indeed- an alternative, cleaner, safer and more reliable future.