Nuclear power 'not the answer' - report

A TOP level report concluding that nuclear power is not the present answer to tackling climate change was welcomed last night by groups opposed to the building of Sizewell C.

By David Green

A TOP level report concluding that nuclear power is not the present answer to tackling climate change was welcomed last night by groups opposed to the building of Sizewell C.

The report was published by the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) – which was set up to advise the Prime Minister - in response to the Government's current energy review.

It drew together the most comprehensive evidence base available to find that there was no justification for bringing forward a new nuclear power programme at present.

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The SDC research recognised that nuclear had an impressive safety record in the UK and could be used to generate large quantities of electricity, contribute to stabilising carbon dioxide emissions and add to the diversity of the UK's energy supply,

However, the research said that even if the UK's existing nuclear capacity was doubled, it would only give an 8% cut on carbon dioxide emissions by 2035 and nothing before 2010. This must be set against the risks.

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The report identified five major disadvantages to nuclear power:

n Long term waste - no long term solutions were yet available, let alone acceptable to the general public.

n Cost - the economics of nuclear power new build were highly uncertain.

n Inflexibility - nuclear waste would lock the UK into a centralised distribution system for the next 50 years

n Undermining energy efficiency - a new nuclear power programme would give out the wrong signal to consumers and businesses, implying that a major technological fix was all that was required, weakening the urgent action needed on energy efficiency.

n International security - if the UK brought forward a new nuclear power programme, it could not deny other countries - with lower safety standards - the same technology.

The SDC said that on balance it finds that these problems outweigh the advantages of nuclear.

However, it did not rule out further research into new nuclear technologies and pursuing answers to the waste problem, as future technological developments may justify a re-examination of the issue.

Chairman of the SDC, Sir Jonathon Porritt, said: “It is vital that we get to grips with the complexity of nuclear power.

“Instead of hurtling along to a pre-judged conclusion, which many fear the Government is intent on doing, we must look to the evidence. There's little point in denying that nuclear power has benefits, but in our view, these are outweighed by serious disadvantages. The Government is going to have to stop looking for an easy fix to our climate change and energy crises - there simply isn't one.”

The SDC report establishes that it is indeed possible to meet the UK's energy needs without nuclear power.

Charles Barnett, chairman of the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign, said he was pleased with the report in principle but disappointed that it did not rule out nuclear power forever.

“Money spent on nuclear power is money that is wasted because it should be spent on the real solution – renewable energy,” he said.

Friends of the Earth director, Tony Juniper said: “This rational and dispassionate review of the pros and cons of nuclear power rightly concludes that the disadvantages outweigh the benefits.”

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