Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Energy firm EDF notes 'uncertainty'

Hunterston B nuclear plant
Image caption EDF operates the Hunterston B nuclear plant in Ayrshire

The firm which operates Scotland's two nuclear power plants has said there is ongoing uncertainty about the impact of independence on the power sector.

BBC Scotland has obtained a copy of an email sent to staff by chief executive of EDF Energy, Vincent de Rivaz.

He said the company was not "policy neutral" and it was his responsibility to defend its interests.

The Scottish government welcomed the intervention, saying it underlined EDF's "constructive engagement".

In his email to UK staff, Mr de Rivaz listed the questions which he said the business would face in the event of a "Yes" vote in the independence referendum.

Political discussions

They included questions over the regulation of the nuclear industry, the future of Britain's single electricity market and the issue of who would pay for the eventual decommissioning of the Hunterston B and Torness nuclear plants.

Mr de Rivaz said he had met First Minister Alex Salmond twice in the last four months.

He told staff: "You will have seen that I have secured assurances from him on the future operations of Hunterston and Torness."

Image copyright PA
Image caption EDF has discussed post referendum issues with members of the Yes Scotland and Better Together campaigns

He later added: "What is clear is that beyond the primary reassurance about the ongoing operation of nuclear, the answers to these questions remain uncertain, depending on the vote and any negotiations that may follow."

In the email, Mr de Rivaz told workers he had also held meetings with key figures in the Better Together campaign, including Alistair Darling, Gordon Brown and Alistair Carmichael.

Decommissioning costs

In a statement, Scottish Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, told BBC Scotland: "The Scottish government has set out its position on the issues raised in this letter.

"The Scottish government plans to simplify the regulatory landscape to one that is more appropriate for a country of Scotland's size, bringing together economic regulatory functions including energy.

"In terms of decommissioning, as we set out in Scotland's Future, the costs of decommissioning Hunterston B and Torness will be met by the private operators of those sites as is currently the case, using the resources built up for this purpose in the Nuclear Liabilities Fund.

"In terms of electricity markets, we have set out in Scotland's future the continuation of the single GB market - a common sense proposition supported by independent energy experts from across the UK, including the independent expert Commission on Energy Regulation."

EDF Energy employs 1,200 people in Scotland and 15,000 across the UK.

The Scottish workforce is based at the Hunterston and Torness nuclear power stations and at offices in East Kilbride.

The company said the two nuclear plants account for a third of Scotland's total electricity generation capacity and met 46% of Scotland's electricity demand.

In a separate intervention on Tuesday, Peter Strachan, professor of energy policy at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, said he believed independence would allow Scotland to cut energy bills and tackle fuel poverty.

Professor Strachan told the Press and Journal newspaper he would be voting yes because independence would guarantee security of supply and ensure electricity bills were affordable.

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