Having been on a doorstep or three as part of my campaign, I have to say that the good people of East Lothian are nothing if not polite. The only hostility in an identifiable group that I have met comes from the workers at Torness. Even that diminishes the further from Dunbar you get. What hostility there is stems from a widespread conviction that the SNP will close the place down the first chance it gets. That’s not true.
Now, I confess to being no fan of nuclear power. It appears cheap and clean but no-one has a safe place to put its deadly waste and decommissioning is so long and expensive that ‘cheap’ may be a delusion. This is no knee-jerk position: I have a degree in physics, I put together Scottish Nuclear’s first interactive visitor centre and I was even mover of the motion that changed SNP policy to run nuclear stations to the end of their useful lives. And though there have been incidents at Torness (May 2002, Dec. 2005, Aug. 2006), all were dealt with and I have confidence in the staff—even if they do all now work for EDF.
If Hunterston and Torness were run to the end, with no replacements, I am convinced that no lights would go out. Firstly, Torness’s two AGRs produce 1.3GW and are good to 2023 at least and, barring more fatigue cracks in the gas circulators (May 2002 incident), for a 12-year extension beyond that. Secondly, we already export 10-20% of the power generated in Scotland to both England and N. Ireland. Thirdly, East Lothian already generates almost half as much as Torness from the wind farms already installed on the Lammermuirs and, having been royally stuffed by Scottish Power, must thole a renewed gas-fired Cockenzie with at least a 25-year life beyond its expected 2014 closure.
Meantime, the Pelamis prototype off Stromness demonstrates wave power potential and the tricky engineering of submerged tidal turbines is being refined in the Pentland Firth. The skilled engineers and technicians at Torness should have no trouble finding work on any of these, or on the massive offshore windfarm proposed for 20km East of the May by Scottish & Southern. And I reckon they have 25 years to make the transition.
If any of them are reading this, feel free to make your comments and point out where you think I’m wrong. Failing which, when I show up on your doorstep, at least invite me in for a cuppa while you harangue me. Just think of the energy you’ll save with the door closed!