Nuclear in Scotland's interest, says minister

16 February 2009

The pressure on Scotland's anti-nuclear position was continued today as Jim Murphy, the UK's Minister for Scotland spoke again in favour of the technology.
"Britain is on course for a new generation of nuclear generating plants" Murphy declared, adding that he had "no doubt" of their importance as a "key component of a low-carbon generation mix."
An 80% cut in carbon dioxide emissions is mandated in UK law, and this will require almost complete decarbonisation of the electricity sector, Murphy said.


He said that the government's decision to support new nuclear build, made official in the white paper of January 2008, was because it had been "convinced by the comprehensive evidence" that supports the use of nuclear power. He said the government now presents the same evidence when it is asked 'why nuclear'.
However, this "common sense" is not shared by the Scottish National Party (SNP), which currently holds power in the nation's devolved administration. The SNP has vowed not to allow planning permission for any new nuclear power plants in Scotland. But Murphy said that the party "offers no sophisticated argument as to why this is in Scotland's long-term interest."
In 2025, Murphy said, there would be no operating nuclear power plants in Scotland while the SNP's vision of "Scottish self-reliance without new nuclear is imaginary."

The comments came at the PIME 2009 conference for communications professionals in the nuclear industry, organised the European Nuclear Society (ENS) and held in Edinburgh.
Santiago San Antonio, director general of Foratom and secretary general of ENS, called the words the most pro-nuclear he had ever heard from a politician.
Murphy spent an hour with the conference, conducting two television interviews on the subject. Last week UK energy minister Mike O'Brien attended two pro-nuclear event on the same day, speaking at the Powering Scotland conference, sponsored by labour unions, and British Energy's Torness nuclear power plant. This coincided with published statements from other Scottish politicians calling on the SNP to change course on nuclear power.


UK opinion

The PIME 2009 conference also heard from Robert Knight of Ipsos-Mori, who presented some changes in public opinion on nuclear power during the last year in the UK.

During 2008, opposition to nuclear power "collapsed" to 19%, putting opposition at the lowest level ever found by Ipsos-Mori, and support at the highest. Net support was found from women for replacement nuclear build (30% for; 23% against) for the first time.

Overall, some 40% support expansion of nuclear sector with 24% against, but this was mainly due to male attitudes. Fifty-nine percent of men support nuclear power, but only 30% of women.