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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 November 2005, 16:55 GMT
Nuclear plans could generate rift
Dounreay Nuclear Power Plant
The issue of waste could delay new nuclear power stations in Scotland
A new generation of nuclear power stations could cause political tensions between Scotland and Westminster - and within the Scottish cabinet.

More atomic stations are expected following Tony Blair's announcement on Britain's future energy needs.

However, the Scottish Executive has made it clear that it would not accept new stations until the issue of waste disposal was solved.

According to experts, this could take about 20 years.

The prime minister is believed to view nuclear power as a way to improve the security of the UK's energy supply and also help to meet greenhouse gas targets.

He announced a major review of energy policy in an address to business leaders in London on Tuesday that would "include specifically the issue of whether we facilitate the development of a new generation of nuclear power stations".

On cost and waste grounds, nuclear power is not the answer for Scotland
Sir Robert Smith
Lib Dem energy spokesman

However, First Minister Jack McConnell has repeatedly said: "We are not prepared to consider a new nuclear power station in Scotland until the issue of waste is successfully resolved".

Those opposing views look set to create political tensions between Westminster and Scotland's devolved parliament over the future of energy provision north of the border.

Energy policy is reserved to Westminster, but land use planning is devolved to the Scottish Parliament.

If the UK Government decides to press ahead with nuclear plans following the review, the Scottish Executive would have the final say over where and when any new power stations could be built.

Tension is also predicted between Scotland's Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition partners.

The Lib Dems have hardened their position over nuclear power while many analysts feel Scotland's Labour members could be persuaded to fall into line with Westminster plans.

'Dangerous and expensive'

Sir Robert Smith, Lib Dem energy spokesman, said: "It is clear that Tony Blair has already decided to support more nuclear power stations.

"But the final decision about new nuclear power stations in Scotland is devolved to the Scottish Executive.

He said that the Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Executive coalition government opposed the development of new nuclear power stations.

The Scottish National Party's leader Alex Salmond said Scotland had vast resources for renewable energy and that there was no need to take part in "Blair's nuclear gamble".

He added: "It is a dangerous and expensive source of energy."

Wind farm in Lanarkshire
Green groups want more renewable energy initiatives

Green groups are also unhappy with the plan for more nuclear power and have said there should be moves towards cleaner and safer energy methods.

Friends of the Earth Scotland said any fair review of energy policy would rule out nuclear power.

Duncan McLaren, chief executive, said: "Nuclear power cannot save the world from climate change. Returning to nuclear will simply hamper real action to reduce energy demand, develop better alternatives and tackle climate chaos."

His stance was backed by Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland.

Dr Dixon said: "Nuclear power is too little, too late, too dangerous and too expensive.

"Wasting money on more nuclear reactors would distract from the real task of investing in improved energy efficiency and clean renewable technologies.

"Scotland has more potential for renewable energy than anywhere else in Europe, we would have to be insane to ignore that and go back to nuclear power."

Green MSP Chris Ballance added: "The arguments for nuclear power still don't stand up to scrutiny, and rely on the use of grossly misleading distortions to cover up the gaping holes in the argument.

"On the grounds of cost, nuclear power is a financial quagmire which will hold back proper investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency - and it will bleed the taxpayer again as it has done for decades."

See some of the energy options in Scotland

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