Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Taxpayers' money funding new pro-nuclear research programme

The Low Carbon Kid is not afraid to name names and get dirty in the fight against nuclear power.

This time I'm attacking Imperial College London - the august 'independent' academic institution.

And the Government, which is 'secretly' funding a new pro-nuclear research programme.

Imperial College

At the beginning of the month Imperial College trumpeted two new pieces of expensive energy research, funded by industry.

The first project is to be applauded:

BP is stumping up £4.5 million to research the use of energy in cities. The project will "explore how money and energy could be saved in the future if cities integrated the systems that supply them with resources".

This is just what the London Climate Change Agency is set up to do. Founding supporters of this Agency are BP (again), HSBC (the "carbon neutral" bank), Lafarge, Legal & General, Sir Robert McAlpine, and Johnson Matthey.

The Agency's chief is the remarkable Allan Jones, who has pioneered this approach in Woking.

Keeping the Nuclear Option Open

But then at the same time Imperial College cancels this wonderful research by supporting another: "Making nuclear power more attractive: largest UK grant for nuclear energy research in 30 years looks at future energy needs".

This is funded by £6.1 million = £1.6m more - from Research Councils UK. This body in turn gets the money from the Office of Science and Technology - ie the Government.

£6.1 million represents the single largest research council commitment to fission reactor research for more than thirty years.

The honestly named 'Keeping the Nuclear Option Open' programme will "investigate how nuclear power can become a more appealing option for future energy production".

So, the Government is spending taxpayers' money funding a research programme that aims to persuade us how wonderful is Blair's new policy of supporting more nuclear power - which is not even official policy yet, we're told.

Professor Julia King, Principal of the Faculty of Engineering, said: "We are excited that Imperial is leading this important initiative. The award reinforces Imperial's position as a leading player in a broad range of advanced energy technologies."

Yes, it is a seductive power-trip to play with the forces at the heart of the sun.

But please bear in mind that so far, in the whole world, there is only one deep geological site which has been authorised to store nuclear waste... in New Mexico.

Professor Robin Grimes, the Principle Investigator and project co-ordinator at Imperial, said: "Having neglected nuclear reactor science and technology for twenty years, it is now clear that a broad research programme is necessary if we are to be in position to underpin a new reactor based generating capacity. Nuclear power is clearly a route to achieving the UK's commitment to reducing its carbon emissions under the Kyoto accord."

Well, yes, it's a route. A dangerous and expensive route.

So, let's just get this right.

BP is funding a research programme based on energy efficiency and renewables in urban areas. (BP was one of the signatories to the open letter to the government earlier this year asking for more funding and targets for renewables to combat climate change.)

And Blair's Government is funding, by a larger amount, a pro-nuclear research programme, which no one has voted for.

At least we know where we stand.

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