The SNP has warned of a possible terrorism risk in North Ayrshire if Scotland were to return to nuclear power.

The warning came after one of the party's North Ayrshire Council opponents raised a motion asking the authority to back calls to consider Hunterston and Ardeer as sites for 'small modular nuclear reactors' (SMRs).

Todd Ferguson (Conservative, North Coast) lodged a motion asking that the council's chief executive write to the UK Government asking them to consider the two North Ayrshire sites for SMR developments, "thereby protecting our excellent nuclear workforce and providing vital employment for generations to come.”

It comes after Hunterston bosses were quizzed on the prospect of nuclear power generation returning to the site in future at a recent public meeting in Seamill.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Conservative councillor Todd FergusonConservative councillor Todd Ferguson (Image: North Ayrshire Conservatives)

During the debate in the council chamber, Councillor Eleanor Collier (SNP, North Coast) praised the contribution of Hunterston A and B nuclear power stations to the Scottish electricity supply since 1964 and 1976 respectively.

But she said it was "time to move to a safer more acceptable zero carbon alternatives to meet our energy requirements and look at renewable employment opportunities".

Cllr Collier added: "The Scottish Government is clear that nuclear power is not wanted nor needed.

"The objective of energy policy is to progressively increase the generation of renewables and clean energy and renewables to migrate away from dependency on nuclear power.

"I think we all know that nuclear power generation is more expensive than renewables, and it leaves the problem of nuclear waste and how to deal with the redundant facilities afterwards.

"We all know that nuclear power generation is more expensive than renewables, there are inherent risks with the process.

"It is important to note that Sellafield [in Cumbria] has shut its doors to taking in spent nuclear fuel rods, so if we did have nuclear rods to deal with they would have to be disposed of locally, not to mention the risk of theft and misuse by terrorists of uranium products.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Cllr Eleanor CollierCllr Eleanor Collier (Image: North Ayrshire Council)

"There are many questions around the cost effectiveness and safety of these new SMR designs.

"SMRs are smaller, but because of that they lose the economy of scale, and the unit price rises."

Cllr Collier also cited scientific studies which stated that SMRs generate more radioactive waste than conventional nuclear power stations, and use more plutonium.

She said that zero carbon and renewables were the way ahead for Hunterston and pointed to the £1.4bn XLCC cable manufacturing project, which is projected to bring 900 jobs to the area over the coming years.

Conservative councillor Tom Marshall said; "We are talking about a climate change emergency.

"The Scottish Government is missing its targets, but nuclear power could help meet those targets.

"I used to teach young people mathematics, and they went on to become engineer apprentices at Hunterston, which set them up for life,.

"It is hard to get an engineer apprenticeship for servicing a turbine.

"The recent figures for contract for differences for energy generation are £83 per MW for wind £92.50 for nuclear.

"The problem is putting all your eggs in the renewable basket as we saw in a day last December where the National Grid saw only 5 per cent of its output from wind .

"It had to be backed up by 50 per cent nuclear, gas stations and various other things, so to rubbish nuclear is not sensible at all.

"And what the average bill payer doesn't realise is that on a day when a turbine site produces far more energy than is needed, there are constriction payments, which means that the average taypayer is paying £40 just to keep turbines turning.

"In Scotland last year a total of £275 million is paid to these wind farm operators to stop them operating. SMRs are very much the way to go to give a constancy of power."

Cllr Ferguson's motion was carried by 14 votes to 12.