How About Widening Our Perspective?
Having rather dismissively advised others to "Dream On" earlier last year, it occurred to me I could well take my own advice!
I have long held the view that the decision to decommission Dounreay was one of the most foolish ever taken. In this I may have been, until recently, in a minority of one! But maybe not for much longer, as the implications of global warming take hold.
Dounreay was a fast breeder reactor, capable as I understand it of producing more energy from its fuel rods than earlier magnox stations, and with an excellent re-processing facility. We shall no doubt develop alternative 'clean' sources of energy one day, but not, it seems evident, quickly enough to satisfy our needs and close the energy gap yawning ahead of us. Wind power will never suffice, and wave and tidal power obstinately drag their feet. Nuclear energy begins to seem the only proven answer; not cheap to build or instantly available, but feasible - that is assuming we do want to avoid growing winter 'outages' as demand repeatedly exceeds supply. If it is too late to re-commission Dounreay then we need a new nuclear facility.
Three points to clear objections. First, the nuclear industry has made a bad habit of shooting itself in the foot by minimising incidents initially reported, only much later admitting the real extent of risk. Secondly, radioactive waste is not only extremely small in quantity but can, I hear recent research has confirmed, be safely buried several kilometres deep, where the heat it gives off fuses the surrounding rock and re-crystallises it. Thirdly, it is worth noting how heavily France has depended on nuclear energy for many years without any lethal malfunction.
Why do I mention this? Well, it might resolve the Dornoch Link matter at a stroke. Any new facility should undoubtedly be rail-connected, to allow safer passage of material in and out, and in the context of such heavy capital commitment the new link would be imperative and not an unduly significant factor. Add a lay-by loop at Tain, and reinstatement of the passing loop at Golspie. This would offer capacity for a more sophisticated train service to meet demand as regular usage grows. I see trains regularly dividing at Tain to continue serving Lairg, and a Wick shuttle from Halkirk to save 20 minutes running to and from Thurso.
Now it is Frank Roach's turn to demand "Dream On and Shut Up!!"