Thursday, March 02, 2006

Short sighted industry needs to think again about nuclear power

It would seem the UK Energy Review is a done deal but it's still early days.

Yesterday the TUC and the CBI issued calls for more nuclear power as part of an overall energy supply mix.

"It is hard to see how the government can maintain its veto on nuclear new build," said John Cridland, deputy director general of the Confederation of British Industry.

Brendan Barber, head of the Trades Union Congress, said "There is a role for nuclear power as part of a balanced energy policy."

Both organisations are naturally concerned at the prospect of possible power cuts.

The government also seems bent on giving the green light to the nuclear industry.

But the review deadline is not until April 12. Everyone must respond to it if they can, because it is such a fundamental issue. Use the link on the right, and, as the Low Carbon Kid sees it, these are the main points:
  1. Nuclear power won't come on stream till the early 'teenies - too late to avoid the shortages the CBI and TUC worried about
  2. Nuclear power is NOT sustainable, but uses carbon in the supply chain and the supplies of raw uranium will run out approximately at the same time the oil does too
  3. Renewable energies, 'clean coal', oil-and-gas with carbon sequestering, and energy efficiency will create far more British jobs per pound invested and per megawatt than nuclear power, which should concern the TUC
  4. These industries, and especially the renewable industries, can be a lasting exportable and foreign-exhange-earning asset to the country, while nuclear power will only last for around 50 years
  5. They do not have any security risks associated with them, nor are they linked to nuclear weapons, as the waste reprocessing chain is
  6. This means there are far fewer external costs - such as waste reprocessing, policing a world scattered with new nuclear power stations and weapons, and securing the supply chain and our power stations
  7. Investment of a scale needed for new nuclear power, invested instead in renewables and energy efficiency, will meet the energy gap despite the unknowns, because the technology, for example of marine energy and heat pumps, is not exactly a blank slate, and where there is a will there is a way (think of the race to put a man on the moon)
  8. People want renewables and there will be no public opposition, whereas there will inevitably be anti-nuclear campaigns which will need costly policing
  9. This, together with the centralised nature of nuclear power and its security risks, implies a more centralised, policed state than does a society based on decentralised renewable energies and 'clean fossil fuel'
  10. The nuclear industry is not to be trusted - it has been economical with the truth before and is certainly being now, not just about safety, but the economics too - and the taxpayers would be left to pick up the bill.

So it's a wider question than simple energy security and price. What kind of society and world do we want to live in, and how far ahead are we looking?

Nuclear power seems to some to be a quick, easy, sexy fix. Look closer at the implications and you'll see how unpleasant it would be.

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