THE Scottish Government last week announced a dramatic commitment to a nuclear weapons free independent Scotland within Nato, in addition to its longstanding commitment to ending nuclear energy production.

In March last year, the Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, made clear his support for new nuclear power stations in Scotland. In the preceding months, the GMB union, ‘the union for energy workers’ had called for urgent investment in new nuclear projects.

In December, Scottish Labour adopted Alan Gemmell as their candidate for the Central Ayrshire constituency at the General Election. Gemmell describes himself on his Twitter/X page as a “proud member” of the GMB union.

Hunterston B nuclear power station in North Ayrshire was commissioned in 1976 and began defuelling in 2022 but a date for full site clearance is not apparent.  Radioactive isotopes in the soil will remain active for a very long time. For example, one isotope, Plutonium-239, has a half-life of 24,000 years, by which time only half of the radioactivity will have gone!

While there have been many reports of leaks over the long lifespan of Hunterston B, into the Clyde estuary and on to the land near several small towns and villages close to the plant, no research studies have identified a statistically significant risk from these to the surrounding population.

One Aberdeen University study in 1999 did find that 14% more tumours of the nervous system were observed than expected within 25km of Hunterston B, this was not considered by it to be attributable to the power station.

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More recently in 2015, researchers found breast cancers were up to six times more common around two power stations in Wales and England.

While there is not conclusive research showing that nuclear power stations cause cancer clusters, there is, equally, evidence that they might.

The onus should not to be on us to prove they are dangerous for our children but on the industry and those who support it to prove that they are not.

Almost by chance (a Google alert) I stumbled on a news report published on March 1 by the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper in Colorado in the US.

It described a town hall meeting drawing hundreds of Puebloans to protest the proposed replacement of the elderly Commanche 3 coal plant near the city with an “advanced” nuclear plant. At the meeting, local protesters referred to 2008 research from the National Institute of Health pointing to a significantly increased risk of the incidence of childhood cancers around nuclear plants.

In the report, we see in a case-control study of cancer among children aged under five years living within 5 km of a nuclear facility, showing a 61% increased incidence of all cancers and a shocking 119% excess risk of leukaemia.

Of course, supporters of “new”, or as in the above story, “advanced” small modular nuclear reactors have shown these to be safer in the sense that they are less likely to malfunction and explode.

But, critically, getting far less attention is the evidence from research carried out by Stanford University in 2022, showing that these same facilities generate more waste by a factor of up to 30 times.

It is this waste, rather than the admittedly low risk of a Chernobyl-type incident, that over the decades of operation will pollute the atmosphere, ground, and water courses around the plant and, inevitably, affect the local population.

Last week, The Guardian newspaper reported on widespread concerns in five English villages, some seaside resorts, where nuclear waste dumps have been proposed to store the often high-risk waste.

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Scientists and engineers often proclaim their commitment to the precautionary principle that requires them to do nothing that might cause harm until they are sure it will not.

Scottish Labour need to think carefully about this and voters in Ayrshire and beyond need to remember that only the SNP are fully committed to a renewables-based, nuclear-free and thus safe strategy for Scotland’s energy needs.

Allan Dorans is the SNP MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock