Memorandum from The Highland Council
The Highland Council welcomes this opportunity
to present evidence to the Committee.
The three strands of the Committee enquiry are
all matters of great importance to the Council. The first two
relate specifically to activity at the Dounreay nuclear establishment
which has been a major part of the economy of the far north of
Highland for the last 50 years employing over 2,000 at its peak.
The Council is acutely aware of the potential deteriorating employment
situation in Caithness and parts of Sutherland, particularly in
the light of the revised decommissioning timetable and the immediate
reduction of jobs.
The second strand is equally of great significance
in that the Council has well established views on the management
of nuclear waste in relation to Dounreay.
The third strand of the Committees enquiry raises
the issue as to whether there is a need for a specific Scottish
Energy Strategy. The Council in submitting evidence to the Scottish
Parliament's Enterprise and Culture Committee into the development
of Renewable Energy in Scotland argued strongly for the preparation
of a Scottish Energy Strategy to put the current aspiration targets
for renewable energy for Scotland into a wider energy policy context
within which decisions on renewable energy developments might
be made, rather than the current ad hoc arrangements.
STRAND 1: FUTURE
It is understood that the UKAEA have presented
the Committee with staff projections for Dounreay over the next
30 years and the initiatives which are underway to secure the
long term economic future of Caithness and north Sutherland. The
Council would however wish to impress on the Committee that the
reducing employment at Dounreay has to be set against the background
of a declining population with all that implies for the future
well being for communities in Caithness and north Sutherland.
The population in Caithness has been in decline
since the early 1980s, dropping from 27,563 in 1982 to 24,950
in 2002 (a decline of 9.5%). This is a combination of out-migration
and negative natural change. The latest population projection
from GRO(S) forecasts a further 7.1% decline in the population
of Caithness by 2016. Neighbouring north east Sutherland is also
experiencing population decline, by 3.1% over the 1991-2001 period.
Population decline of the magnitude envisaged
by the GRO(S) would have significant implications for the sustainability
of north Highland communities as there is currently difficulty
in maintaining existing levels of service provision (the Wick
Hospital maternity unit is a case in point). Everything points
to the need for special measures in response reduction in employment
at Dounreay and the decision to locate elements of the HQ for
the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in Caithness is welcomed.
The significant savings resulting from the acceleration of the
Dounreay Decommission programme for 2003 to 2036 (in excess of
£1 billion) should mean that resources are available to ensure
that the area is able to develop new skills and jobs building
on the expertise that already exists. To have £4 billion
or now only £3 billion of public money invested in decommissioning
and then to leave the communities economy in decline is not acceptable.
The Council is of the view that at least 10% of the savings should
be allocated to legacy projects to secure the infrastructure and
services necessary for continuing community development and long
STRAND 2: THE
The Council has yet to determine its position
on the recent consultation document issued by the Committee on
Radioactive Waste Management (CORWM). An official response has,
however, been submitted commenting "that this stage of consultation
relates to consideration of 15 options for storage or disposal
which are to be refined downward so that a limited number of options
are carried forward for full assessment. It is thus technical
options that we require to comment on and not the geographical
location of where the final solution or solutions might be located.
A distinction needs to be drawn between storage
and disposal. In the absence of a long term solution then there
is little choice but to accept interim storage close to where
the waste is produced which in our case is at Dounreay in Caithness.
Above ground storage is not considered unacceptable
but solely on the basis that it is an interim solution.
The long term solution in the view of the Council
has to be sub-surface disposal which leads us to the conclusion
that only options 2, 3 and 4 should go forward to more detailed
technical assessment. The Council would then expect to comment
on and between the full assessment on those options that are taken
On behalf of the Council, I should make it quite
clear that this response says nothing about the geographical location
of any future facility or facilities since that can only take
place once much more information becomes available about a preferred
technical route for dealing with the higher active solid radioactive
STRAND 3: SHORTFALL
The DTI Energy White Paper published in February
2003 makes it clear that if the UK's carbon dioxide emissions
are to be cut by some 60% by about 2050 then "energy efficiency
and renewables will have to achieve far more in the next 20 years
than they have until now . . ." This recognises the demise
in indigenous energy supplies in the UK, including nuclear power.
Scotland already generates a significant amount of renewable energy
with a significant amount from Highland where there is a long
history of renewable energy developments, particularly the construction
of large scale hydro electricity schemes following the Second
World War. More recently onshore wind farms and small scale hydro
schemes have been constructed as a result of government policy
incentives. In consequence Highland is already able to meet electricity
demand from renewable sources of energy. Any further development
of renewable energy in Highland would therefore not be for local
community requirements but would be in order to contribute to
Scottish and UK renewables targets and to help compliance with
Kyoto agreements. This has major implications for questions regarding
impacts on the high quality environment of Highland and for local
community acceptability. Nevertheless it is recognised that there
is major potential capacity for Highland to contribute towards
future wind, hydro, biomass, wave and tidal energy production.
The Council has gained considerable expertise
in the consideration of renewable energy matters in recent years
as a result of receiving a large number of applications and enquiries
for wind and hydro proposals in particular. For example over 1,000
MW of capacity of wind farms is currently at varying planning
stages within Highland (ie between "scoping" for Environmental
Assessment and approval subject to legal agreements).
At present there are aspirational renewable
energy targets for Scotland as a whole up to 2010 and then 2020.
It is impossible for those outside the Scottish Executive to put
this into any wider energy policy context especially in terms
the relationship of renewables to
future nuclear, coal, gas and oil generation (which will provide
the essential "base load" capacity to ensure that the
lights stay on);
the relationship between Scottish
and UK renewables targets, especially if offshore wind power for
England and Wales develops substantially; and
the relationship between renewables
in Scotland that may be developed in the shorter term (eg onshore
wind) and those that may be developed in the longer term (eg wave,
Following on from the UK Energy White Paper,
a Scottish Energy Policy Paper is recommended which would put
targets for renewable energy into context. This Paper should also
cover as a vital first step the conservation of energy, including
transport. In the absence of this, the present perceived "dash
for onshore wind" in Scotland is taking place in a strategic
policy vacuum. As well as the 1,000 MW or so of onshore wind energy
in Highland mentioned above, there are many more schemes proposed
at the pre-planning stage that are currently commercially confidential.
In contrast say to planning for future housing, there is no helpful
local target (expressed as a range figure) against which approvals
and proposals can be placed, and which might allow a sensible
roll-out of development on sites that are most appropriate.
Such local targets would follow from the above
Policy Paper and could be prepared for strategic renewable energy
areas in Scotland. These might be:
Highlands and Islands (including
They should take into account inter alia
the following in respect of onshore wind:
Separation from existing communities/settlements.
Scope to provide local employment
and a "critical mass" for turbine production.
Such local targets could of course be reviewed
at regular intervals, but crucially they would enable individual
schemes to be put into context. Local targets can be met in the
first instance by avoiding more sensitive sites (by virtue say
of visibility or incursion into designated areas) and this would
assist planning authorities in resisting the more contentious
schemes. Targets could be revised upwards as and when integrated
national policy is updated.
27 January 2005