MINISTERS will face pressure next week to drop their resistance to nuclear energy as the trade union movement back the building of new plants in Scotland in a bid to boost jobs and cut household fuel bills.

A motion condemning the Scottish Government's "ideological opposition" to new reactors looks set to be passed at the STUC congress on Tuesday, the day after the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addresses the three day event in Aberdeen.

Union chiefs are worried the SNP/Greens government's hostility to a new generation of small reactors will result in Scotland losing out on thousands of highly skilled posts in the sector and in the wider supply chain.

They also fear with the drive to scale back oil and gas production to meet climate change targets, Scotland may not have sufficient power from green sources - and could end up requiring energy generated from nuclear power stations built elsewhere with bills likely to rise further.

One of Scotland's two ageing nuclear power stations, the Hunterston B plant in North Ayrshire, was shut down in January. The second plant at Torness in East Lothian, pictured below, is due to close in 2028, two years earlier than originally planned. Each plant accounts for more than 500 jobs.

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"As both Scottish nuclear power stations reach end of generation, we face a growing energy gap. Some of this demand can, and should, be met through increased use of renewable energy sources, however, we still need reliable baseload clean energy if we are to avoid increased use of gas or a return to coal," says the motion tabled by Prospect, the main trade union representing engineers, scientists, managers in the energy industry.

"Net zero needs new nuclear, Prospect and the STUC to support a balanced energy policy. Unless we build new nuclear power stations to replace the capacity that will be lost as advanced gas cooled reactors cease generation, and as we move away from coal and gas, we cannot possibly achieve net zero whilst reliably delivering the energy the country needs and at an affordable price."

It adds that new nuclear also provides "a just transition" for former oil and gas workers through providing high-quality, long-term employment, both in construction and throughout the supporting infrastructure and supply chain.

"For example, there are 3600 businesses right across the UK involved in the supply chain for the development of Hinkley Point C [in sout west England] providing a significant economic benefit and helping achieve a levelling-up agenda," it says.

An amendment to the motion by the GMB union, which is also set to be passed hits out strongly at the Scottish Government.

It cites the work Rolls Royce is doing to build a new fleet of small modular reactors with the company writing to several of England’s regional development bodies and the Welsh government asking them to pitch for the manufacturing site, promising investment of up to £200 million and the creation of up to 200 direct jobs.

It says: “Congress condemns the Scottish Government’s ideological opposition to new nuclear resulting in a failure to model the impact of the closure of Scotland’s nuclear plants and the loss of supply chain jobs such as Rolls Royce’s Small Modular Reactor factory which will be built in England or Wales.”

The UK Government's new energy strategy, published earlier this month, set out plans to build up to eight new reactors.

While energy is reserved, planning is devolved and in a BBC interview Michael Matheson, the Scottish Energy Secretary, confirmed ministers in Edinburgh would use planning powers to block any applications to build any new nuclear plants north of the Border.

He dismissed nuclear power as being "risky" and "expensive", saying it would need to be subsidised heavily by taxpayers, and wind energy was cheaper.

But Mr Matheson told BBC Radio Scotland: "We don't believe nuclear needs to be part of future energy mix here in Scotland and we have got no intention of taking forward nuclear developments. It's a very expensive form of electricity to produce. My concern is if the UK Government are so wedded to developing further nuclear sites, not only is there environmental risk associated with that but it is likely to drive up household bills."

Small modular reactors (SMR) are prefabricated and much smaller than conventional nuclear reactors. While they produce around 15-20 per cent of the power of large-scale plants, they are considerably cheaper to produce at about £2 billion per module.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government is absolutely clear in our opposition to the building of new traditional nuclear fission energy plants in Scotland under current technologies.

“We believe that significant growth in renewables, storage, hydrogen and carbon capture provides the best pathway to net zero by 2045, and will deliver the decarbonisation we need to see across industry, heat and transport. New nuclear power will take years, if not decades, to become operational and will also be expensive – pushing up household bills.

“The transition to net zero will offer many new opportunities for highly skilled, well paid jobs across the energy sector for industry experts, apprentices and graduates. Scotland has long been the centre of expertise in energy innovation and this expertise will prove crucial as we work to capture the opportunities the transition to a net zero economy presents.

“We recognise that planning will be crucial to ensure that economic and social opportunities from the transition are not missed. Our National Just Transition Planning framework sets out the consistent, ambitious approach we will take to developing transition plans.

"We have committed to delivering our first Just Transition Plan as part of the forthcoming refreshed Scottish Energy Strategy, and will work in partnership with businesses, workers and communities to ensure this provides the certainty needed for investment in our net zero journey.”