NUCLEAR power is to be reclassified as “environmentally sustainable” to give it access to the same investment incentives as renewable energy, Jeremy Hunt announced on Wednesday.

In the Spring Budget statement, the Chancellor outlined Westminster’s “nuclear ambitions,” saying he would launch his “Great British Nuclear” scheme.

Hunt hopes it will “bring down costs” and “provide opportunities” in the nuclear sector so that it will produce one-quarter of the UK’s power supply by 2050.

The Chancellor also announced a competition for small modular reactors, which are portable as well as safer and smaller than conventional nuclear reactors.

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He called it the “first competition” of its kind despite his Tory predecessor George Osborne launching a similar competition back in 2015.

“It will be completed by the end of this year,” Hunt said, “and if demonstrated to be viable, we will co-fund this exciting new technology.”

The SNP didn’t share Hunt’s enthusiasm for nuclear power.

Energy Secretary Michael Matheson said: “The Scottish Government does not support the building of new nuclear fission power stations in Scotland under current technologies.

"New nuclear power is expensive and will take years, if not decades, to become operational and has significant environmental concerns.

"Significant growth in renewables, storage, hydrogen and carbon capture provide the best pathway to net zero by 2045, and will deliver the decarbonisation we need to see across industry, heat and transport.

“It was also bitterly disappointing that no further clarity on a timeline for the deployment of the Scottish Cluster was forthcoming today. Further delays to the UK Government’s support for carbon capture, utilisation and storage in Scotland are impacting investor confidence, putting jobs at risk and compromising Scotland and the UK’s ability to meet our net zero commitments.”

The Scottish Greens went further in condemning Hunt's announcement.

The National:

MSP Ross Greer, the party's finance spokesperson, added: “There is nothing green about nuclear energy. It is monumentally expensive, cannot be built quickly enough to help tackle the climate crisis and will leave a long and toxic legacy for generations to come.

“The billions that will be poured into it would be far better invested in clean and renewable energy.”

Greer also denounced the Chancellor’s decision to announce a further 12-month freeze on fuel duty from April 2023. He said: “The Chancellor talked about his four Es, but he clearly forgot about the environment. This is yet another climate-wrecking budget."

“The billions spent on the fuel duty freeze could be used to make public transport more affordable and accessible," Greer added.

"Or on supporting the growth of cheap, clean renewable energy sources to help lower electricity bills. Instead, the Tories are doubling down on fossil fuels.”