THE UK Government is still considering building a new nuclear power plant in Scotland – despite assurances from the Business Secretary that it was not, The National can reveal.

On Thursday, Kwasi Kwarteng made headlines across the country after he said the Tory government had “no plans to impose nuclear reactors in Scotland”.

“It is a devolved affair, that is up to people in Edinburgh to decide what their nuclear policy is,” he added.

However, despite Kwarteng’s comments, the UK Government has confirmed it is still considering whether to select Ardeer in North Ayrshire as the site on which to build a prototype nuclear fusion energy plant.

The National: Boris Johnson has pushed for nuclear to play a much larger role in the UK's energy landscapeBoris Johnson has pushed for nuclear to play a much larger role in the UK's energy landscape

Ardeer is one of the five sites being considered, with the other four in England, as part of the UK Atomic Energy Authority's Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (Step) programme.

Asked if Kwarteng’s statement meant the Ardeer site was no longer in the running, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said that it did not.

A spokesperson told The National that no further shortlisting of the sites would take place before the announcement of the final decision, which is due by the end of 2022.

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They went on: “It would be wrong to deny the Scottish people and scientific community the opportunity to play a role in developing fusion, the ultimate clean power."

The UK Government is eager to promote nuclear “fusion” as a new form of nuclear energy, but the Scottish Government has previously confirmed that it does not support the building of any new nuclear power stations in Scotland.

Nuclear fusion, which has been called the “complete opposite” of the currently used nuclear fission, works by fusing two types of hydrogen atoms together to produce heat that can then be converted into electricity, with the main waste product being helium.

Alan Brown, the SNP’s shadow energy secretary, said the technology has “not even been developed yet” and the Tory government were selling a “fantasy future which doesn’t exist”.

“The future as it’s sold is that it’ll create jobs, it’ll be clean, there won’t be any nuclear waste, so clearly if you give people that option they’re going to say, well that’s good, bring it on,” he said.

“But nuclear fusion technology hasn’t even been developed yet. It’s a kind of fantasy future that doesn’t exist. They’ve been promising nuclear fusion for the past 30 years.

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“So for me that means we really need to focus on the here and now, which is clearly renewable energy, and ramp that up.”

The proposed site for the prototype fusion plant would need to be at least 100 hectares (247 acres), but North Ayrshire Council – which is currently controlled by a Labour minority administration – says there is a possible 600 hectares (1482 acres) available on the Ardeer peninsula.

Ardeer borders on the Bogside Flats site of special scientific interest (SSSI), a part of which is also an RSPB reserve.