THE Government’s former chief scientific adviser is expected to recommend today that the UK embraces a new generation of nuclear power stations despite the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima plant in Japan.
Sir David King’s intervention – in a flagship report – comes as the future of nuclear power emerges as a key battleground in the Holyrood election on May 5. He will argue its use as an energy source is vital to combat global warming.
Sir David’s analysis was due to be published earlier this month, but was delayed because of the problems affecting the Dai-ichi reactors in northern Japan following the earthquake and tsunami earlier this month.
He is understood to believe that concerns over safety should not hold back the building of new nuclear power stations in Britain, including potentially in Scotland.
A furious row broke out at the weekend after First Minister Alex Salmond accused Labour of being “obsessed” with the technology.
His claim came after Labour confirmed that, if elected, they would remove a presumption against new nuclear power stations in Scotland.
Labour in turn hit back, accusing Mr Salmond of exploiting Japanese grief for political points.
There were continuing warnings yesterday about highly radioactive water which has leaked from the Fukushima plant.
In response to the problems in Japan, the Tory-LibDem Coalition has ordered a report on the security of all of Britain’s nuclear power stations, although this is not expected to be finalised until May.
But Sir David, director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University, is expected to urge the UK Government to press ahead with a new generation of nuclear power plants.
His report is understood to make the case for the “considerable benefits” that a resurgence in the nuclear power industry would have.
It will argue that there is an “urgent need” to build new plants and to deal with existing plants due to be put into retirement in coming decades.
Sir David will be backed by political and industrial figures who support the case for the construction of new nuclear power stations.
Last night, Scottish Labour welcomed the publication of the report, which they said backed their policy. Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP, Tom Greatrex said: “Safety, reducing carbon emissions and keeping the lights on must be at the heart of a sensible and sustainable energy policy.”
Labour also points out that no company currently wants to build new nuclear power stations in Scotland, but says that it would consider any application on a case-by-case basis.
A spokesman for the SNP said: “With Labour publishing their pro-nuclear election policy – entirely the wrong one for Scotland – these different visions of our energy future will become a major issue in the election.”
The campaign group Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA), which includes a number of Scottish councils, called on the Coalition to guarantee there will be no public subsidies of new nuclear power stations in the wake of the Japan crisis.
Chairman Bailie George Regan, a Dundee city councillor, said: “The NFLA and many other groups have been deeply alarmed and concerned by the events in Fukushima.
“Though this incident is different from Chernobyl, it is clear that safety warnings for this reactor went unheeded.
“I urge the Government to respond seriously to our demands and we encourage the establishment of a robust and healthy debate to ensure we have a future energy and waste management policy that is safe for all our futures.”