Dead Men Left

Monday, March 06, 2006


A vague glimmer of sense:

Building new nuclear plants is not the answer to tackling climate change or securing Britain's energy supply, a government advisory panel has reported...

Research by the SDC suggests that even if the UK's existing nuclear capacity was doubled, it would only provide an 8% cut on CO2 emissions by 2035 (and nothing before 2010).

Anything that chips away at the pernicious myth that nuclear power is a carbon-free quick-fix should be welcomed. Particularly insidious is the idea that a our current merry, energy-intensive existence can be sustained if we just build a couple of oh-so-clean, oh-so-cheap nuclear power plants.

It can't, of course.

Prof Jaccard told The Daily Telegraph: "If humanity is serious about huge carbon emission cuts this century, zero-emission fossil fuels will dominate nuclear, renewables and energy efficiency."

He has worked out that Britain would need not only to replace its existing nuclear power stations but to double their number if it were to generate enough electricity and to fuel its transport - whether by charging electric cars or by making hydrogen or biofuels - by nuclear means alone.

He said: "It is one thing to build a nuclear power plant on an existing site, but imagine building 15 new ones."

What bothers me is this. I have a horrible sinking feeling that, after discreetly floating the possibility last year, the government is already pretty well set on building a new generation of nuclear plants. They will attempt, as ever, to take the line of least resistance against corporate interests: they will not contemplate the kind of public investment needed to turn renewable sources into a viable energy prospect, and they're (as yet) demonstrably unwilling to tackle energy efficiency.

The Energy Review and Nick Stern's climate change commission are likely to offer, at best, agnosticism on nuclear power. One or both may end up strongly in favour - most likely the Energy Review. If that's the case, Jonanthah Porritt's well-meaning intervention will be little more than a bright green fig-leaf for a dirty energy policy.