The price to pay for nuclear power is too high - Readers' Letters

It doesn't seem 30-odd years since I went with a group of sixth form A Level physics students on a tour of Dunbar's Torness nuclear power station, now scheduled for decommissioning.

The Hunterston B nuclear power station was shut down permanently on Friday
The Hunterston B nuclear power station was shut down permanently on Friday

Most of them now have their PhDs and families of their own, but hopefully they all share my view that nuclear electricity remains the most toxic and expensive domestic fuel in regular use – and will remain so unless and until the problems associated with its deadly wastes are finally solved.

As things stand now the next 500 human generations will be stuck with the human and financial costs consequent upon coping with the radioactive detritus of the very first nuclear electricity generated some 80 years ago. Factoring in inflation the final price of just a single nuclear kWh will total more £s than there are particles in the universe. If anyone doubts that, let them do their own sums, or get a copy of mine (I hope they can cope with logarithms and discounting cash flows).

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Scotland's Hunterston B nuclear power station shuts down after 46 years
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They can begin with the total costs of building, running and demolishing Torness and Hunterston which are of course but two of several nuclear plants in the UK. That industry will bluster and claim many advantages of its existence, but ask it to disprove my sums (and I've tried!) and see what happens.

If the investment into nuclear energy (originally so we could keep up with the Jonses and have our own A and H bombs) had instead been ploughed into research and development of clean, safe, renewables we would long ago have had endless energy to spare and green devices to export. But we didn't and so we haven't. To replace one nuclear power station with yet another is to refuse to learn. Are we that stupid still?

Tim Flinn, Garvald, East Lothian

Power up

Brian Wilson, former Labour parliamentarian, writes about the merits of nuclear power (Scotsman 8 January).

As a Liberal Democrat I give support to our MP Jamie Stone, who is engaged infruitful discussions with Rolls-Royce which is in the process of manufacturing mini nuclear power stations one-tenth the size of the likes of Hunterston B that shut down last week, having served for 46 years. These mini nuclear power stations will be located in Caithness near the decommissioned Dounreay fast breeder reactor.

We know that the SNP government are against nuclear developments at any cost but what they do not realise that wind power cannot save their bacon: wind is a poor supplier of energy.

Both gas and nuclear and the interconnectors keep the “lights on”.

Michael Baird, Bonar Bridge, Highland

Case for defence

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If the current Nato stand-off with Russia over Ukraine escalates into economic sanctions, crippling cyber attacks and war, I wonder how many European – especially German – voters will rue the day that "just transition" entered the lexicon and find out that the best non-violent defences we had – domestic nuclear and gas energy – have disappeared.

They would have prevented Putin from using the Ukraine-bypassing Nordstream2 gas pipeline as a threat, and mitigated US clout derived from shipping liquified natural gas. And instead of Scotland sending soldiers we could have been sending North Sea gas.

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven, Aberseenshire

Socrates knew

What Susan Dalgetty says about women’s lives at risk in our male-centric society (Scotsman, 8 January) is as true now as it was when, over 2,000 years ago, Socrates famously wrote that: “Once woman becomes man’s equal, she becomes his superior”. However, we need more detail about the statistics quoted in her article before reaching the same conclusions.

Appalling as it is that more pregnant women die from gunshot wounds than any other cause, this, I believe, is also the case for young men and, quite possibly, for children of both sexes. The real problem is, perhaps, easy access to guns in America.

As for an increase in mortality in women operated on by male as compared with female surgeons, we need to know not only the numbers of patients in the study, and whether the surgical procedures were comparable, but also what the comparative mortality statistics were for the same surgeons' male patients.

Several explanations are possible for the data as quoted by Susan Dalgetty, and there is one with which Socrates would most certainly have agreed: that women are, overall, better surgeons than men.

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Socrates, of course, was killed for his beliefs. Unsurprisingly, the jury that imposed his death sentence included 500 men and not a single woman.

(Dr) Oliver Eade, Melrose, Scottish Borders

Request stops

As a regular user of request stop stations on the Far North line from Inverness-Thurso/Wick, it will indeed be sad to see the end of the hand signals to stop the train (Scotsman, 1 January), but if it really will speed up the long journey (compared to road) electronic kiosks are to be welcomed. Visitors are always amazed that you put out your arm like hailing a bus and can’t believe it will actually work until it does.

Having said that, for 15 years I stayed at the station house at Scotscalder (one of the quietest of the request stops). The sight lines are poor for southbound drivers and with passengers a fairly rare sight the train was on rare occasions unable to stop in time. Years ago the train would back-up to the platform. This is now rather frowned upon.

I now look after Dunrobin Station where the great majority of passengers are from overseas visiting the castle. The hand signal has always been a mystery to them but any electronic button will need to have clear instructions in many languages.

It is more than possible that in future passengers will arrive at the station either not knowing about the device or finding out too late. Will hand signallers still be able to board the train?

In fact, the number of request stop stations in Scotland is comparatively small compared to both England and Wales. Over Great Britain there are well over a hundred. I imagine it will take some time to convert them all (if that is indeed the plan) so there should be still opportunities to practice the ancient art of waving down a train for some time.

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Daniel Brittain-Catlin, Dunrobin. Golspie, Highland

NHS pressure

Your report “Hospital alert as Scotland enters 'worst case scenario’” (7 January), repeats, without in any way questioning, what we have all been hearing about A&E departments being overwhelmed, inferring that selfish/irresponsible people turn up at their doors demanding attention to which they are not entitled.

Dr Scott Davidson, deputy medical director for acute services at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, is quoted as saying: “We continue to see large numbers of people attending with symptoms that could be managed by speaking to a GP, local pharmacy or by calling 111 before attending A&E".

Jackie Baillie and other MSPs pointed out the problems associated with this glib advice but perhaps I might offer other suggestions.

First, allow pharmacists to give patients with non-emergency but painful conditions like abscesses or minor infections, medication which, at the moment, can only be prescribed by GPs.Then/or open weekend GP surgeries, manned on a rota basis by locum doctors, who might refer patients with sprains or fractures to the nearest minor surgery unit, which, of course, would have to be open. Advertising the whereabouts of these minor surgery units would be helpful, too.

The problem patients experience at the moment, especially at weekends and after hours, is that such facilities are not available to them, so, in pain or distress they turn up at A&E departments.

Most people don't want to wait four-plus hours in A&E departments. They just want to be treated.

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Lovina Roe, Perth, Perth and Kinross

Jolly good

Am I the only person who thinks that, by comparison, the lugubrious, doleful John Swinney with his almost daily pronouncements of ever deepening gloom makes the Reverend IM Jolly seem like Benny Hill?

David F Donaldson, Polmont, Falkirk

Maxed out

I can think of nothing more irritating and pointless than another discussion about whether we should have devo-max in Scotland (Scotsman, 6 January), and opposition politicians in Holyrood should not get pulled into this.

After the referendum vote in 2014, politicians of all parties represented at Holyrood got together to negotiate a new package of powers for Scotland, and all of these have since been enacted. It follows therefore that the powers that we have got should be agreeable to almost 100 per cent of the electorate and political establishment. That many of these powers have never been used to any significant extent tells you what you need to know about the SNP. They want power, but not responsibility.

In addition, if all financial decisions are devolved to Holyrood, then we are effectively turning our back on the single biggest advantage that the Union gives us, namely the benefit of being part of a much bigger and stronger economic unit. The Covid pandemic has proven that.

Finally, devo-max is usually thought to be the devolution of all powers except for foreign affairs and defence. Did the SNP accept the Brexit vote taken at a UK level? No. If we did have to take military action somewhere, would they accept that? No. The suggestion that the SNP would respect any powers left at a UK level is for the birds. We don’t need the naïve appeasement that is discussion around devo-max.

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Victor Clements, Aberfeldy, Perth and Kinross

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