14 April 2005

S2M-2691 Nuclear Power

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 14 April 2005

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

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Nuclear Power

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-2691, in the name of Richard Lochhead, on nuclear power.


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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I want to deal with one or two issues that have arisen in the debate, from a scientific viewpoint.

Alex Johnstone would not allow me to intervene to tell him that it is good news that the modern generation of power stations is producing only a tenth of the waste of previous ones. If we consider that the half-life of caesium and strontium isotopes, which that are at the heart of the waste that is produced, is 30 years, that reduces the period until such waste is safe by 150 years. That sounds quite encouraging until we realise that that period is a million years, and 150 years off a million years ain't a big deal, Alex.

The waste is unsafe in two ways. Proximity to the waste is the main problem—the half-life and decay after a million years deal with that—but escaping waste is the most immediate and continuing danger. The ways in which we store waste at the moment do not protect communities from escaping waste. Elaine Murray suggested that the SNP never supports wind farms. She has said that before in debate, and I have told her before that I supported the wind farm at Boyndie in my constituency. I ask her to acknowledge that the SNP supports wind farms where they are appropriately sited; where they are inappropriately sited, the SNP does not support them. I would be surprised if Elaine Murray took a different view.

We have been told that the numbers do not add up. Well, I say to quite a few people—including Elaine Murray—that on Monday I lodged 31 questions, out of a long list of possible questions I could have lodged, asking the Executive to correct number errors in its parliamentary answers. If anyone is on the record as being unable to make their sums add up, it is the ministers in the Executive.

To be positive, I point out that the key opportunity that arises from the situation in which we find ourselves is the significant amount of waste that we have produced in Scotland from our nuclear industries. We have a brilliant set of technicians working in the far north of Scotland to learn how to deal with that waste, so let us create industries that will support international efforts to deal with nuclear waste throughout the world. In future, that could be a revenue earner for Scotland, but there is also a moral issue, because there are no boundaries to the contamination that nuclear industries can cause. In the south-west of Scotland, we still have sheep that cannot be harvested for the food chain as a result of the Chernobyl incident. The time that has passed is a blink of an eye compared with the lifespan of radioactive heavy metal isotopes.

We also have opportunities to take new initiatives in renewables industries. We have lost the initiative that we had for many years in Scotland in hydroelectric power, but there are initiatives that we can take and should be taking to become world leaders in the development of wave and tidal power. We should invest in and support such initiatives now.

We must also consider low-level waste, which is based around deuterium and tritium isotopes of hydrogen, which are particularly dangerous because they can be bound with carbon and enter the human body.

There are many challenges in which we should invest. Today's debate has been useful, but I have to say that there has been much heat and very little light.

I urge members to support the SNP's motion.


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