Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Britain Pushing Ahead With Nuclear

A paper to be published today will reassert the commitment of Britain's Labour government to nuclear power, despite legal challenges and continued public opposition.

An energy white paper published today will promise further consultation on the issue as demanded by the high court following a challenge by Greenpeace, but industry secretary Alistair Darling will make clear his belief that nuclear is essential if the UK is to meet growing energy demands and meet its Kyoto treaty commitments on C02.

The government insists that new nuclear capacity will be needed to reach their targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but they have so far failed to convince voters. In the Guardian's most recent public poll, 48% of those surveyed continued to oppose nuclear power while 44% were in favour. Interestingly, 62% of men support it while the same can be said of just 27% of women.

Although nuclear power emits no greenhouse gases, the disposal and storage of nuclear waste remains the biggest concern of both citizens and governments. Put another way....


Hun Boon said...

I am highly disturbed that the UK government would seriously consider nuclear energy. It is a short-sighted approach because ultimately we have to deal with nuclear waste.

No new nuclear power plants have been built in Europe for the past few decades. Let's hope that this continues.

Odiyya said...

amen to that

E. R. Dunhill said...

I'm not sure I agree. There are genuine concerns surrounding the use of fission as a source of power. The fuel has to be mined, its waste is dangerous. The same is true of burning things to generate power.
People are also concerned about disasters, and rightly so. However, I would argue that a coal-burning power plant is an industrial catastrophe that happens every day. Every time a fossil-fuel plant is in operation, there is a 100% chance that a harmful pollutant will be released into the environment, and the best science available says that this pollutant is harmful to humans and their way of life (For brevity, I’ll leave out all of the harm to non-human species).
There is a huge and growing demand for energy driving a potential climate crisis. Renewables, efficient use, and mass-localization are the right solutions in the long-run, but realizing these solutions in a comprehensive way is a decades-long endeavor. Consumers have begun en masse adopting token changes to save energy, and a few of us are working hard to reduce our impact. However, the kind of sea change in technology, worldview, and lifestyle is not going to happen overnight.
I’m not convinced nuclear is the right tool for this job (it is certainly not a sustainable solution), but it does solve certain pressing problems. If not fission, how do you propose we turn off the carbon infrastructure in the near future?


Odiyya said...

ERD - I can't argue with anything you said. But along those lines, my main concern is whether or not installing new nuclear actually ends up reducing emissions.

To do that it should accomplish one of two things - take polluting sources like coal offline, or represent a genuine decline in future emissions by .

Here in Canada Nuclear is being pushed as a solution for greenhouse gases in the oil sands, and there is a push to build nuclear plants instead of gas fired ones to feed the energy hungry oil sands process.

The problem is that the nuclear being proposed replaces such a miniscule percent of the new emissions anticipated from the oil sands that it will accomplish almost nothing in terms of lowering overall emissions. meanwhile, most of the new power needs will come from new gas fired generation.

It seems like the nuclear industry has done a very good job in positioning itself as a solution, while in reality it is not really making an impact. meanwhile, we'll potentially be stuck with a massive new source of radio-active waste.

That's the case here in canada. I'm not sure as to the situation in the UK. If anyone has other thoughts or info I'd like to see it.