Monday, February 9, 2009

Is nuclear power an issue of 'national security'?

For most people, the Calman process is all about exploring the ways in which Scottish autonomy might be enhanced - while the greatest fear for many is that it might turn out to be damp squib and that little will change. But for one small, narrow interest group - namely Westminster Labour MPs - this is in fact a process about stripping the Scottish parliament of powers it currently holds. Oh sorry, I appear to have gone slightly off-message there. What I meant to say is that they see it as an important 'opportunity' to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the devolution settlement and to see in what ways it can be 'strengthened', specifically by examining in a 'mature' way whether there is now a case that certain powers could be exercised more 'effectively' by a different layer of government than they are at present. It's just an extraordinary coincidence that the most appropriate layer of government for all the important powers always turns out to be Westminster.

Yesterday, Scotland on Sunday reported that Labour MPs - but intriguingly not their Holyrood cousins - want to return the crucial planning powers over new nuclear power stations to Westminster. They claim to be motivated by a desire to prevent UK government energy policy being 'frustrated' by the Scottish government's planning powers. Or to put it another way, they don't much care for the fact that the Scottish government is daring to suggest it might actually use its legal powers to legitimately block something in line with the express wishes of the Scottish electorate at the ballot box. That would never do, would it?

Perhaps sensing the weakness of this line of attack, the MPs have a back-up argument - that nuclear energy policy is a matter of national security. In a sense I can see their point - a terrorist attack on a nuclear power station would have devastating consequences, as would the theft of nuclear material. But the irony is that all of this only applies for as long as there actually are nuclear power stations. Labour MPs can rest assured that the SNP's policy is very kindly eliminating that national security worry for them, and they can now sleep easy in their beds. Problem solved.


  1. 36% of the electricity produced in Scotland goes over the border.

    The Westminster reaction to the SNP on the no nuke policy is just self interest. How dare these inferior Scots refuse to generate power for us.

    The Greens make sense on this, if we had much better insulation and building regs along with things like solar water heaters we could massively reduce the consumtion of power.

    A solar water heater even on a dull day will significantly raise the water temperature which means less energy is required to heat it for domestic use.

    Noticed this on the Scotsman forum today:

    Federation, not separation 10/02/2009 09:47:36

    The sum:

    The following sums get trotted out regularly to show the nuclear Luddites just how expenseive is their nuclear folly:

    The real price of nuclear electricity.

    Initial assumptions: a. portion of unit cost devoted to waste management = 1p. b. annual rate of inflation 5%
    c. Number of years over which waste is to be supervised 150,000. d. Proven technology e. Compound interest formula.

    The sum:

    Interest = 0.05(1+0.05) X 150,000
    = 0.05(1.05) X 150,000
    Log Interest = log 0.05 + 150,000 log 1.0
    Interest = 10 to the power 3177 pence.

    In plain English for the one unit of nuclear electricity used to write, print, transmit and publish this letter (Torness is my nearest power station) future generations must pay 10 followed by 3177 noughts pence. To put this enormity another way that is possibly a figure greater than all the known particles in the universe (I exclude dark matter); and that is just for one unit amongst billions.

    To square this circle nuclear providers must show us exactly where and how all the money set aside for dealing with waste is being invested (and invested reliably for 150,000 years) to ensure that future generations are not handed the rapidly accumulating waste bills of this one.

    Comments (and I know that presently interest rates and inflation are lower, but I've made assumptions based upon the noral times to which we will soon return, I hope)?

  2. James, the Greens have to produce an insulation policy suitable for ALL Scottish buildings/homes. The one they have was designed specifically for Yorkshire where there are far fewer stone built houses and no tenements.

    Good post KW.