A question for Alex Salmond & the "Yes" campaign
I see that the campaign for Scottish Independence has been launched by First Minister Alex Salmond. One of the many question that he, and the "Yes" campaign, will need to answer before the vote on whether Scotland leaves the UK is
What would an independent Scotland do with the existing nuclear waste from Scottish nuclear power plants?
The SNP are anti-nuclear, a policy which I profoundly disagree with, but if Scotland votes "Yes" they will have the right to decide whether to build new nuclear power plants or not. Whatever decision they take would not alter the fact that nuclear power plants which have already been in operation over the past sixty years in Scotland, providing electricity to Scottish customers, have already generated substantial quantities of nuclear material.
Personally I am a strong supporter of making our existing stock of nuclear by-products an asset rather than a liability by reprocessing it and re-using it to generate more low-carbon electricity. Whether to do this with existing Scottish nuclear waste would be a decision for an independent Scotland. What an independent country which breaks away from the UK could not expect to do, however, is expect to continue to leave their nuclear waste in England while ceasing to pay for the privilege.
Here in West Cumbria we have the principal United Kingdom stockpiles of nuclear by-products, including a hundred tons of plutonium oxide and many tons of lower level nuclear by-products. A significant proportion of the nuclear waste at Sellafield and the Low Level Respository near Drigg came from nuclear plants in Scotland. The companies which operate these facilities are funded by contracts, including many paid for by the UK taxpayer, so while the Scots are part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland they are paying their share of this cost.
But if Scots cease to be UK taxpayers this will no longer apply.
When Sellafield stores or reprocesses nuclear waste from foreign countries, these countries pay the British nuclear industry quite substantial sums of money, and the contracts provide for the eventual return of the nuclear material.
If Scotland becomes a foreign country, are they going to take back their nuclear waste, or are they going to pay the nuclear industry here in Cumbria the going international rate to deal with it?