We often hear that Scotland is blessed with natural resources for renewable generation. That is true, but it is not the whole story. Scotland is also blessed with the best people, and you will find not a few of them operating Torness Nuclear Power Station.
In this fight against climate change, it is more important to have good people than the gods on your side, and I urge you to go to Torness to see what they have done.
With technology that was fundamentally designed in the 1960s, they run a station that to this day is cleaner, more productive, more powerful and more reliable than any other in Scotland, new or old. No station in Scotland has ever had as high a load factor as Torness. On the day we visited, the plant was producing more than full power, 1211 MW net, enough for nearly every home in Scotland, even though it is only visible from about a dozen of them! From just one-tenth of a square mile, the station has produced enough power over its lifetime for every home in Scotland for 30 years and saved millions upon millions of tonnes of carbon.
You can’t do that without good people. Nuclear’s great advantage is that it is a technology that we control, but it means you need good people. That’s who you find at Torness. They are the ones putting in 12 hour shifts to keep the great machine running for as long as possible. They are the ones working nights, working weekends, working holidays to keep our homes warm and light. They are the ones delivering energy security and delivering the energy transition in practice.
In fact, the people of Scotland’s nuclear industry from the generations who have worked at the stations right through the supply chain have, together, done more to fight climate change than anyone else in Scottish history.
Those magnificent people should be given a chance to do it again, with new nuclear back in its rightful place in Scotland. Why when we are fighting for the future of our planet, and the future of our children, would we lay aside the cleanest electricity generation at our disposal? Why when we are fighting to secure our energy supplies and our economy, would we lay aside the most powerful form of energy on Earth? Why when we have the best people, would we not trust them to get the job done?
There is another question: why, when our communities are crying out for good work and good pay, would we lay aside an industry that gives them just that? Nuclear jobs are not here today and gone tomorrow. They are here, well-paid, skilled, and stable, for generations. At Torness, we met people with grandfathers and fathers who had worked on the station before them. Their children and grandchildren after them should have their chance to forge a link in that great chain. And we should do our utmost to give it to them.
This new green economy we are building is not for the graphs and the models, it is for them, and that we must never forget.
Thank you to Greig Elliot, Paul Forrest, Jamie Evans, and to Ashleigh Dickson and the wonderful Fiona McCall for hosting us. To the whole team at Torness, thank you, for the pride you bring to your work, the contribution you make to your community, and the service you give to your country.
Lincoln Hill is the NIA’s Director of Policy and External Affairs.