NICOLA Sturgeon has insisted she will look at nuclear fusion technology with an open mind as she has ruled out any atomic power as part of the Scottish Government’s delayed strategy to be released later this year.
The Scottish Government’s latest energy strategy, published in 2017, made it clear that the administration opposes nuclear energy “as is the case today”.
SNP Net Zero Secretary Michael Matheson appeared to contradict the policy which included small modular reactors as part of ‘new technology’ when he ruled out his government’s support for mini reactors to be installed in Scotland.
Energy policy is reserved for the UK government, but the Scottish government can effectively veto any plans to elicit feedback in Scotland through planning regulations.
Unlike nuclear fission, which is currently used for nuclear energy, nuclear fusion creates low levels of radiation by combining two types of hydrogen atoms to produce heat, the main waste product being helium.
Reports suggest Ardeer in North Ayrshire is one of five sites shortlisted for a prototype smelter, which the UK government hopes to be operational by 2040.
But the Scottish government would have to give planning permission for the bid to go ahead.
The Prime Minister was asked if the Scottish Government would support the new technology.
Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon said: “We are aware of the growing interest in the development of fusion energy, which is of course different from traditional nuclear energy.
“We should never close our minds to new technologies.
“It is clear, however, that there is still a long way to go to fully understand both the risks and the opportunities that fusion energy technology presents.”
She said the SNP’s position on traditional nuclear power “has not changed and will not change”.
The Scottish government was due to publish its updated energy strategy in the spring, but it was postponed until the autumn after the UK government revealed its new energy security plan amid war in Ukraine.
Ms Sturgeon added: “We do not support the construction of new nuclear power stations in Scotland and therefore this will not feature as part of our broader energy strategy review, which is due to be published later this year.
“We will continue to evaluate these new technologies on the basis of safety, value for consumers and contribution to Scotland’s low carbon emissions. economy and the energy future.
But Tory MP Craig Hoy slammed the Prime Minister for her “non-committal response” on nuclear fusion.
He accused the Scottish government of using the planning system “to shut down Scotland’s traditional nuclear industry”.
Mr Hoy said nuclear fusion “has the potential for a virtually unlimited supply of safe, low-carbon, low-radiation energy”.
He added: “Why won’t the Prime Minister give a guarantee that his government will allow Scotland to benefit from this technology when it becomes commercially available – or give in to anti-science and anti- Greens’ nuclear strike yet another price she will pay for them by backing the SNP’s plan for a wild illegal referendum nest in October?
Addressing the attack on plans to hold an independence referendum, Ms Sturgeon insisted the Tories “know a referendum will be legal and that it is coming”.
The prime minister confirmed she was “non-committal on fusion energy”, adding “it would be irresponsible to be anything else”.
She said: “There is a very long way to go before any of us fully understand the risks or even the opportunities the technology could present.
“It will probably be decades before we can see factories working and a lot of understanding has to be built along the way.
“We won’t close our minds, but neither will we jump to conclusions while this work needs to be done.
“When it comes to traditional nuclear energy, our position is well known. We have enormous renewable potential and this government is going to focus on making sure we realize it fully.