The French energy company which owns the two Scottish nuclear power stations has re-started lobbying the SNP.
Paris-based EDF took over the Torness and Hunterston atom plants when it acquired the privatised operator British Energy plc after it went into financial meltdown over the vast costs of storing highly radio-active spent nuclear fuel for generations. At the same time, the Scottish nuclear lobbying campaign was closed.
But this year, EDF sponsored a fringe meeting at the SNP national conference – where Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her plans to introduce a new Scottish Independence Bill.
Paul Winkle, EDF’s Scottish Business Director, told the meeting that it is possible for the Scottish nuclear plants to have their working lives extended – subject to safety approvals.
Torness (in East Lothian) is scheduled to close in 2030, while Hunterston-B, near Largs, is due to shut in 2023.
He said: “The current life for Hunterston is 2023 and Torness is 2030, and that is based on our assessment of ageing mechanisms in those plants and being absolutely sure that when they are shut down they are still safe to operate.
“But to go beyond that we will do assessments and it may be possible to make some small further extensions, but we will not operate them beyond when we are confident they are safe to operate.
“Our current estimate is, with Hunterston, we get to a point where, if we go beyond 2023 there will be uncertainty. We will do more analysis in due course. Those dates are based on our best judgement.
“In order for us to have that ability to switch the lights on any time we want to, we need three things. We want it to be low carbon, because we need to avoid climate change. We want it to be affordable, and we want it to be reliable. And that question, what happens when the wind isn’t blowing, there are other technologies that we need to consider to ensure that security of supply.
“So I am not going to tell you what the answer is, but clearly, over time existing power stations will be closing and we need to get into a debate about how we ensure that safe, secure, reliable supply of electricity.”