NICOLA Sturgeon has insisted she will look at nuclear fusion technology with an open mind as she ruled out any atomic power forming part of the Scottish Government's delayed strategy to be published later this year.

The last Scottish Government energy strategy, published in 2017, made clear that the administration opposes nuclear power “under current technology”.

SNP Net Zero Secretary Michael Matheson appeared to contradict the policy which included small modular reactors under ‘new technology’ when he ruled out his Government's support for the mini reactors to be installed in Scotland.

Energy policy is reserved to the UK Government but the Scottish Government can effectively veto any plans to build reactions in Scotland through planning regulations.

Unlike nuclear fission, currently used for nuclear power, nuclear fusion creates low levels of radiation by combining two types of hydrogen atoms together the produce heat with the primary waste product being helium.

Reports suggest that Ardeer in North Ayrshire, is one of five sites shortlisted for a prototype fusion plant, which the UK Government hopes to be up and running by 2040.

But the Scottish Government would need to give planning permission for the bid to go ahead.

The First Minister was asked whether the Scottish Government would support the new technology.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon said: “We’re aware of the increasing interest in the development of fusion energy, which of course is different from traditional nuclear energy.

“We should never close our minds to new technology.

“It is clear though that there is a very long way to go still in terms of fully understanding both the risks and opportunities that fusion energy technology presents.”

She said that the SNP’s position on traditional nuclear energy “has not and will not change”.

The Scottish Government was due to publish its updated energy strategy in the spring but it has been delayed until the autumn after the UK Government revealed its new energy security plan amid the war in Ukraine.

Ms Sturgeon added: “We do not support the building of new nucellar power stations in Scotland and therefore that will not feature as part of our wider energy strategy review, due to be published later this year.

“We will continue to assess any such new technologies based on safety, value for consumers and contribution to Scotland’s low carbon economy and energy future.”

But Conservative MSP Craig Hoy criticised the First Minister for her “non-committal answer” on nuclear fusion.

He accused the Scottish Government of using the planning system “to shut down Scotland's traditional nuclear industry”.

Mr Hoy said that nuclear fusion “offers the potential of virtually unlimited supplies of safe, low carbon, low radiation energy”.

He added: “Why won’t the First Minister give a guarantee that her Government will allow Scotland to benefit from this technology when it becomes commercially available – or is caving into the anti-science, anti-nuclear dogma of the Greens yet another price that she will pay for them propping up the SNP’s plan for an illegal wildcat referendum nest October?”

Addressing the attack over plans to hold an indpendence referendum, Ms Sturgeon insisted that the Tories “ know that a referendum will be legal and it is coming”.

The First Minister confirmed she was “non-committal on fusion energy”, adding “it would be irresponsible to be anything other”.

She said: “There is an awful long way to go before any of us fully understand either the risks or indeed the opportunities that technology might present.

“It is probably decades before we could see any plants operating and a lot of understanding needs to be built along the way.

“We will not close our minds but nor will we jump to conclusions while that work has to be done.

“In terms of traditional nuclear energy, our position is well-known. We have massive renewable potential and this government is going to focus on making sure we fully realise that.”