Scottish Parliamentary briefing held on civil nuclear power

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The IET recently held a parliamentary briefing at Holyrood to discuss: Civil Nuclear Power – Opportunities for Scottish Engineering.

The Scottish Parliamentary briefing was the latest in a series of events that brought together law makers, technical experts and interested parties including the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority and EDF who are the current owners of the two remaining Scottish nuclear power stations.


Dr Graeme West from the Institute for Energy and Environment, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Strathclyde and Professor Bill Nuttall, Professor of Energy at the Open University both spoke at the event.


With 48% of Scotland’s electricity generated by two ageing nuclear power stations, the nuclear energy sector faces a particular set of challenges including the feasibility of life extension as well as lengthy decommissioning processes for both past and current nuclear plants.


Dr West’s presentation focused on the history of nuclear power in Scotland; the relative contributions of energy generation by fuel type; the prospects for Scotland’s nuclear power plants in terms of current policy and the strategies necessary to keep older power plants running. Dr West also spoke about waste, decommissioning and what he termed the energy quadrilemna. This involves the practical consequences of balancing competing policy objectives – energy decarbonisation, affordability, security of supply and social acceptability.


Professor Bill Nuttall outlined the current position on new nuclear power generation in the UK. He set out expansion plans in relation to England and Wales, which could present Scottish engineering firms with new opportunities. Professor Nuttall also discussed some of the broader developments in the nuclear sector, including EU energy goals, and highlighted the latest thinking on small nuclear reactors, an idea which might offer alternative development opportunities in Scotland.


Both Dr West and Professor Nuttall were then joined by Derek Elder, Chairman of the Engineering Policy Group Scotland, Chic Brodie MSP and Alex Johnstone MSP who all took part in a panel discussion. This panel was chaired by Iain Gray MSP. Other MSPs who took part in the audience discussion included Elaine Murray, Nigel Don and Christian Allard.


The briefing gave attendees the opportunity to reflect on current Scottish Government policy, which emphasises 100% generation from renewables. One consequence of this is that due to the intermittent nature of renewables, additional power sometimes has to be purchased at high cost through inter-connectors.

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