Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Nightmare of nuclear negotiations ahead (if Scotland goes independent)

Letter submitted to The Guardian today Your economics editor’s interesting assessment of the challenges posed in respect of the future financial base for an independent Scotland (“Could independent Scotland risk taking the radical high road?” Analysis, The Guardian, 31 August 2020; https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/aug/30/nicola-sturgeon-should-not-limit-scotland-economic-options), overlooks the prospective impasse in untangling how liabilities will be apportioned between an independent Scotland and a remaining UK (rUK). This will predictably be most acute when it comes to the civil and military infrastructure in Scotland. In the former case, Scotland has one operating nuclear plant at Torness, that has around 10 operating years to go, one plant at Hunterston, whose operational life is very close to completion, and two closed experimental fast breeder nuclear plants, and associated reprocessing facilities, at Dounreay, on the north Scotland coast.here is also a small research reactor at East Kilbride Collectively, these will require tens of billions of pounds in radioactive waste management and decommissioning costs. The latter military case, sees one research reactor, named “Vulcan”, at the Dounreay site; a four reactor complex at Chapel Cross in in Dumfries and Galloway near the English border ( which made nuclear explosive materials and tritium for nuclear weapons - with an electricity spin-off); plus the operational nuclear submarine base at Faslane, the former US base at Holy Loch (now closed) near Glasgow, and the decommissioned nuclear submarine “graveyard” at Rosyth near Edinburgh. All these military facilities have been deployed as part of the nuclear “defence” of the UK, when Scotland was a constituent part, as this will have to pay its share of the decommissioning and clean-up liabilities. Nobody knows the real final cost of this (at least) 150 year process, but it certainly will be many tens of billions of pounds. The extreme exigencies of these predictably very expensive and technically complex clean-up programmes would have to be solved in any independence process. I don’t envy the nuclear negotiators.

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