The decision to build a new nuclear power station in Britain for the first time in over 20 years is a reminder that the UK was once the world leader in this kind of energy.
Indeed, the UK has the status of the world's oldest civil nuclear power. However, the new plant, at Hinckley Point in south-west England, is to be built by the French energy conglomerate EDF, with significant participation by two major Chinese agencies.
As measured by "megawatt hours" of power, the French firm is being guaranteed a pretty fancy price for its investment: roughly double the current price, and as we all know that's pretty high. All this is a far cry from the 1950s, when Britain basked in a kind of self- delighted glory as the global pioneer of nuclear energy.
Around 1955, as a primary schoolboy in Aberdeen I was told, with great enthusiasm, about the developments at Dounreay, near Thurso. I don't think the teacher involved had any scientific knowledge whatsoever and there was no doubt a feed-through of government propaganda in this, but the fact remains that Britain was indubitably the leader in this technology.
Of course, Dounreay itself was soon to be overshadowed by controversies which all the previous very positive propaganda could not expunge. The so- called "fast breeder" could never achieve feasibility. And right from the start, as it turned out, there had been considerable environmental concerns. Indeed the site, on an old wartime airfield, was chosen partly because it was far from any major population centre, although the community of Thurso was just along the coast.
Also just along the coast, ironically, was the private residence of the Queen Mother.
New residential developments were banned in the vicinity of the site. A secret tunnel was constructed for the discharge of potentially dangerous debris into the Pentland Firth.
A serious explosion at the plant occurred in 1977, but there was, disgracefully, no full disclosure about what had happened there till 1995. This unfortunate mix of propaganda and cover-up, allied to the growing influence of the very articulate anti-nuclear wing of the green movement, ensured that for a long period nuclear power investment became a complete non- starter in the UK.
The drive to create a "fast breeder" had never been part of the main nuclear power programme. But the sad saga of Dounreay is nevertheless a prime example of how not to treat the wider public in these acutely sensitive matters.
Now that nuclear has suddenly become fashionable again - and even, some suggest, the most feasible "green" option - a new kind of scepticism is developing.
This is based on the fact - for some, the very unpalatable fact - that it is French and Chinese money and expertise that the UK is turning to. Is this attitude an example of petty "little Englander" resentment, based on nostalgia following the throwing away of an early world lead? Or is it based on valid concerns about national security and stability of supply? In other words, is it safe to have French and Chinese experts working here as key contributors to our energy supply?
Such questions are not looming prominently in the Scottish independence debate: not yet, anyway. But we should remember that Dounreay was a major experiment, and with hindsight a wrong-headed one. It was conducted in the far north of Scotland for cynical reasons.
On the other hand we are currently served by two reasonably efficient nuclear power generating facilities, one near Fairlie on the west coast and the other near Dunbar on the east coast. EDF is significantly involved in both plants. As far as I know the safety records have been satisfactory.
Yet the waste (in more ways than one) of Dounreay still, even now, pollutes this entire issue. The Yes Scotland campaign should tell us in some detail how nuclear power might fit into an independent Scotland's energy programme. Of course maybe it does not fit in at all, for Alex Salmond has previously declared that he will not sanction any new nuclear power plants.
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