MSP accused of disregarding 'very clear will from far north' by opposing a Caithness mini-reactor
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North MSP Maree Todd has been accused of "peddling misinformation" and doing a disservice to generations of local workers by expressing her opposition to a new mini-reactor being built in Caithness.
Dounreay Stakeholder Group chairman Struan Mackie claimed Ms Todd was disregarding the clear will of people in the far north "to remain a nuclear community" and argued that the industry should be seen as part of the net-zero solution.
He spoke out after Ms Todd, the SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, said this week that she could not support the idea of a small modular reactor (SMR) being developed in her constituency. She pointed to the "high cost and high risk" associated with nuclear power.
Rolls-Royce hopes to build up to 10 SMR power stations by 2035 and there have been calls for one to be established in Caithness.
Ms Todd pointed out that the SNP had been clear in its opposition to nuclear development and she maintained that Scotland must look instead to "safe, sustainable and cost-effective" renewable energy.
Councillor Mackie represents Thurso and Northwest Caithness on Highland Council as a Scottish Conservative and Unionist.
"Instead of standing shoulder to shoulder with our nuclear workforce and supply chain businesses across the north, it is deeply disappointing that our SNP MSP has chosen to toe her party line on nuclear," he said.
"For decades, workers in the far north developed, prototyped and operated some of the most advanced technology in the civil and defence nuclear fields – bringing with it prosperity and opportunity to our region that was unprecedented.
"The work on our sites shaped the future of the modern nuclear industry, which is safe, reliable and an obvious part of the solution in achieving net-zero. A repeatable modular solution would drive down costs and sustain high-value work in predominantly rural communities.
"Suggesting that nuclear fission is a high-risk option is simply peddling misinformation and does a disservice to the generations of workers who have worked in this highly regulated environment.
"It is very clear that the workers at Dounreay and Vulcan see themselves as nuclear workers, with the vast majority surveyed making it clear that they wish to stay in the industry if they can. Instead of transitioning into alternative employment, like the Scottish Government suggests, they may well leave our community to work at other nuclear sites at home or abroad.
"It is a completely preventable situation if the Scottish Government ‘follows the science’ and listens to communities like Caithness and north Sutherland.
"By choosing to side with her central belt colleagues in the SNP and the Scottish Greens, Maree Todd has chosen to disregard the very clear will from the far north of Scotland to remain a nuclear community and seek new development. The last Member of Parliament who did the same lost his seat after one term."
Earlier this week Ms Todd said: “As an MSP representing a vast and rural Highland constituency, a constituency with the highest fuel poverty rates in the country, I cannot in all conscience support a nuclear fission solution as a cost-effective, safe energy source for our community and I believe the vast majority of the public back my position. We must focus on reliable energy sources that offer value for money and align with our net-zero ambitions."
Rolls-Royce has said that SMR power stations "can support both on-grid electricity and a range of off-grid clean energy solutions, enabling the decarbonisation of industrial processes and the production of clean fuels".
It says much of the investment "is expected to be focused in the north of the UK, where there is significant existing nuclear expertise".
Each power station would have the capacity to generate 470 megawatts of low-carbon energy, equivalent to more than 150 onshore wind turbines.
Rolls-Royce SMR has secured £490 million through commercial equity and UK Research and Innovation grant funding.