More public funding shows UK government ‘cannot be trusted’ on nuclear energy


  By a Newsnet reporter

SNP energy spokesperson Mike Weir MP has said the announcement of public funding for nuclear energy projects has shattered Westminster’s no nuclear subsidy promise and demonstrated that the Westminster Government simply cannot be trusted to keep its word.

LibDem Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced £31 million in public funding for companies involved in the nuclear energy industry, which the SNP claims makes a mockery of the Westminster Government’s coalition agreement promise that there would be ‘no public subsidy’ for new nuclear energy.

The coalition agreement also states that ‘Liberal Democrats have long opposed any new nuclear construction’, and goes on to state that the coalition will operate in such a way as to allow the Lib Dems to maintain their opposition to new nuclear energy plants, raising questions as to why Vince Cable has allocated funds in this way.

The funding will go to 36 projects developing new technologies for the construction, operation and decommissioning of nuclear power plants.  £18 million of the funding will come from the Technology Strategy Board, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).  The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is expected to leverage in an additional £13 million making a total public investment of £31 million.

The UK government recently gave the go-ahead for a new nuclear facility at the Hinkley Point plant in Somerset.  The first plant due to be constructed will cost up to £14bn.  The UK government’s Nuclear Industrial Strategy report it said it hoped there would be new nuclear reactors at five sites around the country by 2030.

Earlier this month MPs on the Energy Select Committee warned UK government ministers that there is no “plan B” if the new nuclear plants are not built on time and on budget. The committee heard evidence from industry experts saying that the government’s timetable was “ambitious at best and unrealistic at worst”, and took no account of the delays and rising costs which have dogged new nuclear projects elsewhere in Europe.

The Scottish government is opposed to the development of new nuclear energy facilities, a position it shares with a number of other governments which have likewise decided to scrap or phase out their own nuclear capacity following the disastrous accident at the Fukushima plant in Japan.  The Japanese plant continues to be surrounded by an exclusion zone, which forced the evacuation of 80,000 people.  64,000 remain in temporary accommodation and cannot return to their homes.

Commenting, SNP Energy Spokesperson Mike Weir MP said:

“This funding announcement clearly breaks the Westminster Government’s promise and completely undermines the credibility of Vince Cable and the LibDems.

“With a recent opinion poll showing that a majority of people in Scotland are opposed to new nuclear energy, there is no justification for Westminster to be wasting public money in this way.

“Nuclear energy simply cannot be delivered without eye-wateringly high levels of subsidy. In these difficult economic times, the last thing people need is to see their money wasted on nuclear white elephants that are significantly more expensive than renewable options.

“Scotland has massive renewable resources and as European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said just a few weeks ago, can be a renewable energy powerhouse of Europe. Why on earth would anyone want to put all of that at risk by diverting money to pay for new nuclear white-elephants that are significantly more expensive than renewables?

“With the Westminster Government breaking promise after promise, it is little wonder that people in Scotland want major decisions to be made by a Scottish Government directly accountable to people living here.

“Only a Yes vote will ensure that the decisions that matter to Scotland are made by a Scottish Parliament directly elected by people living in Scotland.”