Windfarm bid withdrawn after MoD raises nuclear testing station concerns

Wednesday September 13th 2023

Eskdalemuir Seismological Station

Eskdalemuir Seismological Station in upper Eskdale in the Scottish Borders.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Paul Kelly

A bid for a domestic windfarm in Hawick has been withdrawn after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) raised concerns over its potential impact on a nearby nuclear testing station.

Scottish Borders Council received a planning application for the erection of a 10.4m high turbine on land south east Of Wynburgh Cottage at Langburnshiels.

But the MoD objected to the application due to its potential impact on the Eskdalemuir Seismological Recording Station.

The normally unmanned station was established by the UK Atomic Energy Authority in 1962 as the British contribution to an international network intended to identify and locate underground nuclear tests and, later, monitor compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

In addition to recording earthquakes, seismic arrays are able to record the unique signature associated with nuclear explosions.

An MoD spokesperson said the application was opposed due to the threat it posed to the UK’s ability to uphold its role in the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, a multilateral treaty to ban nuclear weapons test explosions and any other nuclear explosions.

The UK signed up to the treaty in September 1996.

The MoD spokesperson said: “The development site falls within the statutory consultation zone associated with the seismological station at Eskdalemuir (the array), an asset that forms part of the UK’s contribution to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

“Research has confirmed that wind turbines of current design generate seismic noise which can interfere with the operational functionality of the array.

“In order to ensure that the United Kingdom can continue to implement its obligations in maintaining a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty a finite seismic noise budget for the 50km radius surrounding the array, based on the findings of the research, is managed by the MoD.

“At this time, there is no such seismic budget available. The MoD must, therefore, object to this application due to the unacceptable impact the proposed wind energy development would have on the operation and capability of the array.”

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