THE UK Government has sparked anger after announcing plans for “the biggest expansion of nuclear power for 70 years”.

On Thursday, the Tories unveiled a “Civil Nuclear Roadmap” which they said could reduce energy bills and support thousands of jobs through a potential “major” new nuclear power station and investment in advanced nuclear fuel production.

SNP energy spokesperson Dave Doogan said the plan was “as short-sighted as it is unnecessary”, adding that the construction of Hinkley Point C power plant in Somerset is “estimated to add up to £40 a year to consumer bills”.

Lynn Jamieson, the chair of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (SCND), claimed a “key UK Government motivation for the plan is the inextricable link between power generation and the weapons programme”.

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The UK Government insisted that its plan could “help quadruple UK nuclear power by 2050 up to 24GW” through measures “such as smarter regulation”.

It also said that up to £300 million would be invested in UK production of the fuel required to power high-tech new nuclear reactors: High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium, known as HALEU.

Currently, the fuel is only commercially produced in Russia, but the Tories claim the UK could “lead the way” with a plant in the north west of England online “early in the next decade”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Nuclear is the perfect antidote to the energy challenges facing Britain – it’s green, cheaper in the long term and will ensure the UK’s energy security for the long-term.

“This is the right long-term decision and is the next step in our commitment to nuclear power, which puts us on course to achieve net zero by 2050 in a measured and sustainable way.”

Net Zero Secretary Claire Coutinho said the Tories were “making the biggest investment in domestic nuclear energy in 70 years” while Nuclear Minister Andrew Bowie claimed the funding would “ensure the UK remains at the forefront of technological developments”.

The UK Government has also published two new consultations, one on a new approach to siting future nuclear power stations and a second on encouraging private investment in the sector.

Doogan (below), the SNP’s energy spokesperson at Westminster, said the announcements reflected the Tories’ “exorbitantly expensive nuclear obsession”.

He went on: “Building nuclear plants that aren't even set to open in this decade will do nothing to combat the cost of living crisis that has ravaged households under the Tories’ watch, nor will it do anything to help us meet our shared climate targets.

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“While the US and EU pump cash into green energy, the Tories continue their misguided, and expensive, expansion of nuclear all the while people in energy rich Scotland struggle to heat their homes.

"Scotland is blessed with vast natural resources and we can harness the skills here to deliver green growth, jobs and energy security, but what we need to move forward and what Westminster wants are two very different things. Scotland has the energy, we just need the power."

Mark Ruskell, the Scottish Green MSP, dismissed the idea that nuclear power is a source of green energy. He claimed the Tories were “wasting billions of pounds on nuclear technology and hoping for the best”.

Ruskell went on: “There is nothing green about nuclear power. It is unsafe, inefficient and will leave a long and toxic legacy for future generations.

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“The UK Government’s plans are no solution to the climate crisis. Hinkley Point C has been a disastrous money pit. The last thing we need is to throw away even more on a costly and unreliable energy source that will take years to go on stream.

“There is no time to waste. Environmental breakdown is happening all around us and we can all see the impact. This is when all governments should be investing in clean green renewable energy, which is the safest and cheapest energy available.”

Jamieson, the chair of the SCND, said: "As well as critical and persuasive arguments against building new nuclear on the grounds of spiralling build and unit costs, unacceptable risks to public and environmental safety, and the unsolved waste problem, we should also be aware that a key UK Government motivation for the plan is the inextricable link between power generation and the weapons programme. In August last year the Minister for Defence Procurement, James Cartlidge, publicly re-affirmed the link.

“The weapon sector relies on the civil sector for the maintenance of the relevant skills and expertise. The horrific reality of the UK’s potentially catastrophic weapons of mass destruction must be central to the debate."

Earlier in January, concerns were raised about the state of nuclear weapons infrastructure on the Clyde after Dominic Cummings, the former chief adviser to Boris Johnson, claimed it was “rotting”.

Ministry of Defence figures provided to MPs in 2007 stated that the 25-year lifespan of the Vanguard class submarine meant they would all have reached their initial expiration dates by 2024.