French owner of Scottish nuclear power plants seeks assurances on post-Independence operations


Torness atom plant, near Edinburgh - one of Scotland's two nuclear power stations
Torness atom plant, near Edinburgh – one of Scotland’s two nuclear power stations

The public-sector French corporation which owns and operates the two Scottish nuclear power plants has said there is ‘ongoing uncertainty ‘about the prospective impact of Scotland’s independence on the power sector.

In an email sent to hundreds of staff at the Torness and Hunterston-B atom power plants in respectively East Lothian and North Ayrshire, Vincent de Rivaz, Chief Executive, EDF Energy (Electricite de France) said the company was not “policy neutral” and it was his responsibility to defend its interests. EDF Energy employs 1,200 people in Scotland and 15,000 across the UK.

M. de Rivaz raised questions which he said the business would face in the event of a “Yes” vote in Scotland’s Independence referendum. These included questions over the regulation of the nuclear industry, the future of Britain’s single electricity market and the issue of who would pay for the eventual decommissioning of the Hunterston B and Torness nuclear plants.

M. de Rivaz – who has met Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond twice in the last four months – said: “I have secured assurances from him on the future operations of Hunterston and Torness.”

“What is clear is that beyond the primary reassurance about the ongoing operation of nuclear, the answers to these questions remain uncertain, depending on the vote and any negotiations that may follow.”

In the email, M. de Rivaz told employees he had also held meetings with key figures in the Better Together campaign, including Alistair Darling, Gordon Brown and Alistair Carmichael.

In reply, Scotland’s Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, said: “The Scottish government plans to simplify the regulatory landscape to one that is more appropriate for a country of Scotland’s size, bringing together economic regulatory functions including energy.

“In terms of decommissioning, as we set out in Scotland’s Future, the costs of decommissioning Hunterston B and Torness will be met by the private operators of those sites as is currently the case, using the resources built up for this purpose in the Nuclear Liabilities Fund.

“In terms of electricity markets, we have set out in Scotland’s future the continuation of the single GB market – a common sense proposition supported by independent energy experts from across the UK, including the independent expert Commission on Energy Regulation.”

The two Scottish nuclear power stations generate around half – 46% – of Scotland’s total electricity demand.

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