Memorandum submitted to the Committee
by the Nuclear Industry Association
The Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) welcomes
this opportunity to submit evidence to the Committee. This is
an important topic that urgently needs to be addressed in the
light of the reduction in Scotland's nuclear generating capacity
over the next two decades, and the long leadtimes for the construction
of replacement capacity.
The NIA is the trade association and information
and representative body for the British civil nuclear industry.
It represents 100 companies including the operators of the nuclear
power stations, those engaged in decommissioning, waste management,
nuclear liabilities management and all aspects of the nuclear
fuel cycle, nuclear equipment suppliers, engineering and construction
firms, nuclear research organisations, and legal, financial and
consultancy companies. Several of our member companies, including
British Energy, BNFL and UKAEA, have significant interests in
Scotland, and it is the location for a number of large engineering
firms, such as Mitsui Babcock and Weir, which are heavily involved
in nuclear related activities.
We have divided our evidence under the three headings
that will be covered by your enquiry.
How can the shortfall in energy output be met
once nuclear power no longer provides Scotland's energy needs?
On the latest statistics Scotland's two nuclear
power stations at Hunterston and Torness supply about half of
Scotland's electricity, more than any other source. Hunterston
B is scheduled to close in 2011, and Torness in 2023. British
Energy has stated that the scope for extending the operating lives
of AGR stations is limited. Scotland therefore faces the prospect
of needing to replace at least a third of its generating capacity,
and probably more as old coal fired stations also reach the end
of their lives or are retired on environmental grounds, over the
next 18 years.
There are several ways in which this shortfall
could be replaced. First, power could be imported from England,
although this would require England to generate the required surplus
and there is no evidence that such large scale investment in current
market conditions is likely. This option can therefore be discounted.
Secondly, more fossil fuel plantsprobably gas firedcould
be constructed to meet the shortfall. However, fossil fuelled
plants emit greenhouse gases. Increased reliance on those sources
would be seriously detrimental to the environment and threaten
national and international commitments to reduce carbon emissions
to mitigate against climate change. Scotland is currently the
leader in the UK in producing carbon free electricity and it would
be regrettable to reverse this situation. Moreover, Britain will
be a net importer of gas from 2006 as North Sea reserves are depleted.
Relying on imported supplies from regions such as Russia, the
Middle East and North Africa, many of which are politically unstable,
poses risks to the security and cost of energy supply. While it
is likely that some additional gas fired capacity will be constructed
because of the commercial attractions of the technology, it should
be as part of a balanced portfolio of generating sources to reduce
the environmental, security of supply and cost risks associated
with over reliance on a single imported source.
Alternative options would be to replace the
retired nuclear capacity with renewables or to replace it with
new nuclear capacity, or a combination of both. Scotland clearly
has significant potential for developing renewable sources of
energy. As hydro generation has limited further scope for development,
the most promising alternative is wind power, given that the timescales
would not allow for the development of solar and wave power to
a point at which they could produce sufficient electricity to
meet the nation's needs. However, replacing Scotland's nuclear
capacity with wind power would require more than 4,000 additional
onshore wind turbines, which would require sufficient conventional
back up generating capacityprobably fossil fuelledto
compensate for the intermittency of wind power. NIA fully supports
the development of wind and other renewable energy sources as
contributors to the creation of a low carbon energy economy. However,
renewables at their current level of technological development
cannot realistically replace the reliable, large-scale, carbon
free output of the nuclear stations. The widespread development
and deployment of clean renewable sources is crucially important,
but it makes little sense to pursue policies to develop renewables
at the same time as presiding over the loss of nuclear capacity.
There will be no net improvement in emissions levels by replacing
one carbon free source of electricity with another. Moreover,
given the intermittent nature of many renewables such as wind,
the back-up capacity required is likely to be fossil fuelledcoal
or gasmeaning a probable net increase in emissions.
Replacing Scotland's current nuclear capacity
could be achieved with one modern twin reactor station which could
be located on any of the existing four nuclear sites in Scotland.
Developments in nuclear technology are producing inherently safer,
simpler, more efficient and cheaper reactor designs that produce
significantly less waste than existing reactors. If two such stations
were built and combined with an increase in the use of renewables
Scotland could move rapidly towards generating over 90% of its
electricity without the production of greenhouse gases.
Job prospects in the Caithness region following
the decommissioning of Dounreay
Dounreay is by far the major employer in Caithness
and if it were to be completely closed following decommissioning
the implications for employment in the region would be seriously
detrimental. Although full decommissioning is still many years
away, even with UKAEA's accelerated decommissioning plans, it
is sensible to address the issue of economic regeneration well
in advance. NIA is aware that the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority
(NDA), which will assume ownership of the Dounreay site from April
2005, has a remit to consider economic regeneration, and will
no doubt be working closely with the relevant local authorities
and Development Agencies to ensure the region's continued economic
viability following Dounreay's closure. The only point NIA wishes
to stress is that the Dounreay site has full grid connections
and the infrastructure for electricity generation, and could continue
to be used for that purpose either for a large renewables project
or a new generation nuclear facility, for which it would be particularly
well-suited as a nuclear licensed site.
The long-term strategy for dealing with radioactive
waste, in particular intermediate level waste
The NIA supports the work currently being undertaken
by the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), and
recognises the important need for public confidence in decisions
on the management and disposal of the UICs radioactive waste.
Arriving at an acceptable long term solution for dealing with
radioactive waste is becoming an increasingly urgent problem,
particularly as the NDA is about to embark on its extensive programme
of decommissioning the historic legacy of public sector nuclear
sites Which will create significant additional amounts of waste.
The technical basis for the safe treatment and disposal of radioactive
waste is well understood, and solutions are being implemented
in other countries with political and public support, for example
in Sweden and Finland. NIA recognises the political sensitivity
surrounding waste management in this country and the strong emotions
it arouses, but we would urge CoRWM and the Government not to
delay taking decisions. The waste exists and has to be dealt with,
no matter what the future might be for new nuclear build in Scotland
or elsewhere in the UK.
Nuclear energy currently supplies the largest
proportion of Scotland's electricity generating capacity, but
that capacity will need to be replaced over the next 20 years.
In the medium term, renewables are highly unlikely to be able
to replace the lost nuclear capacity, and increased reliance on
imported gas for electricity generation poses environmental, security
of supply and cost risks. Scotland has a long tradition in nuclear
energy and many Scottish companies possess valuable skills and
capabilities in nuclear technology. The replacement of Scotland's
nuclear capacity with new, more advanced reactors would provide
long term environmental, economic and energy supply benefits.
NIA acknowledges that arriving at an acceptable long term solution
to the problem of radioactive waste management is an important
step in the public acceptance of new build in Scotland and elsewhere
in the UK, however it should not be a pretext for delaying any
decisions on replacing Scotland's nuclear capacity. If Scotland
is to maintain its position as a low carbon producer of electricity
then it must start planning new nuclear capacity now.