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Saturday, May 26, 2007


A speech from Energy Minister Jim Matherto an Energy Conference in Aberdeen is more interesting for what it doesn't say than what it does. It says
The energy sector has been a vital driver of Scotland's economy and I want it to remain as a driver.

.....So we are clear that energy must contribute to both economic development and our environmental objectives.

In talking to you today, I am not going to set out developed policy right across the energy field.

That policy needs to develop through discussion with you.
Those who forecast, the retiral of Scottish Coal and under-estimated the potential of renewables - will need to redo their calculations - especially about Scotland's ability to meet base load.

The commitment is total....

We believe that forecasts of an "energy gap" rely on existing power stations closing and no new commercial investment in new power stations in Scotland.

That appears not just unlikely…..but ridiculous.

Consequently, as I have said, I am here today to start a dialogue with you to ensure that Scotland's future energy potential is fully realised.

.....The plain facts of life are that it would be for energy companies and the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate to decide whether to extend the life of current nuclear generating stations. The simple fact is that this is not a decision for Ministers. Our role relates to considering any proposals for new build.

..... And we want to see more developers taking active steps to ensure local communities directly benefit from developments.

Not just through a donation for a community facility - although that may be welcome - but through a continuing stake in the fruits of the project.

And Ministers can take that- and economic benefit- into account in considering proposals for generating capacity and we will do so.

......I want an evidence led approach which harnesses expertise alongside enthusiasm.

What it doesn't say is that anti-nuclearism is a sacred cow, which to many in the SNP it is. Mr Mather did say in a recent letter in the Scotsman that nuclear was "neither wanted nor needed in Scotland" which is pretty clear - currently.

However the commitment to avoiding blackouts is even more clear & it seems to me that if those who know make it clear that the alternatives ARE nuclear or blackouts then, however reluctantly, the SNP would have to choose the former. They can, perhaps, put off the choice a few years by extending Hunterston's life, something which the Greens, though apparently not the Liberal Democrats, are willing to accept (saying that nuclear reactors should be kept going long beyond their design life does seem to preclude the Greens ever again saying that nuclear is unsafe). Certainly if the plant lives can be extended it allows putting off the decision by that much longer but, since it takes a minimum of 4 years to build a reactor & Hunterston is due to close in 2011 this is merely stopping the clock at 5 to midnight.

It seems to me that it is the duty of those who know to say boldly that without new nuclear we ARE going to face the loss of 50% of our capacity & consequently have massive blackouts & deaths. As Mr Mather says it would be "ridiculous" to allow this & who can disagree? The SNP's door may not be open but they have committed themselves to not ignoring the facts. It is up to the supporters of nuclear to prove the case, at least beyond reasonable doubt. I believe the case is beyond reasonable doubt.

It seems to me that it is the duty of those knowledgeable enough not to let our MSPs continue to avert their lofty gaze from this approaching catastrophe.

The remark about community support is an interesting one. The closure of Chapelcross was extremely unwelcome in that community & places that already have reactors are generally unimpressed by scare stories. One thing which made nuclear more popular in France was that within 5 miles of a reactor cheap electricity was provided. I strongly suspect that if electricy was provided to people & businesses within 5 miles of Hunterston or Torness, which are the natural places to put new reactors, at cost (1.3p a unit) virtually no locals would object. This is a concession the Scottish Executive would be able to extract from Westminster.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


According to the Sunday Times
“The idea of the lights going out is not a fantasy. People seem to accept that security of energy supply is a right. It is not. The industry will have to work hard to maintain supply and for that we need a clear framework,” said Simon Skillings, director of strategy and energy policy at Eon UK, Britain’s largest integrated energy company.

...The scale of the challenge is immense. By 2015, Britain’s generating capacity could be cut by a third as ageing coal and nuclear power stations are closed. Britain is also moving from being self-sufficient in oil and gas as North Sea production declines. In 2005, the UK became a net importer of gas. By 2010, imports could account for 40% of British gas needs; by 2020, 80% to 90%.

....Meanwhile, the government is under pressure to encourage desperately needed new gas-storage facilities. The UK has storage capacity to cover only two weeks of gas needs against two to three months for France and Germany.

....The big question is whether the UK can act fast enough to tackle the looming crisis. Even if the government’s nuclear plans remain intact, it could be at least 10 years before the first new nuclear station is ready.
Of course the situation in Scotland is different. England gets a whole 18% of its power from nuclear & is close enough to France to import their's (though even the the French haven't been building lately & may face a shortage, whereas Scotland is a mere 37% nuclear. Incidentally Westinghouse are on record as saying that they can build in 4 years but presumably the 10 years mentioned includes 6 for the judges & eco-nuts to go through their dance. The big question is not whether the UK "can" act fast enough - there is no question of that - but whether our government will allow us to. In Scotland there seems no question that it won't.

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