Azara Blog: Gordon Brown seems keen on nuclear power

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Date published: 2008/05/28

The BBC says:

Gordon Brown has said the UK needs to increase its nuclear power capacity - raising the prospect of plants being built in new locations.

The prime minister said that with oil prices soaring, it was time to be "more ambitious" for nuclear plans.

No 10 sources said it was "open" as to whether new sites might be needed.

Ministers announced in January they backed new plants, but the focus was on replacing existing nuclear capacity as plants reached the end of their life.

And a review of possible sites published at the same time focused on 14 locations where there have been nuclear power plants before.

Since then Business Secretary John Hutton has said he wants the nuclear industry to go beyond replacing its 23 ageing reactors, which provide 20% of the UK's electricity.
Energy companies, rather than the government, build power stations and the January statement was important in encouraging private firms to invest in new plants.

The planning system is already being changed to make it easier for key infrastructure projects such as nuclear power to get planning permission.

French firm EDF has said it plans to construct four plants without subsidies in the UK - the first by 2017.

But critics of nuclear energy say it is expensive, creates radioactive waste and could become a target for terrorists.

Greenpeace claims that even 10 new reactors would cut the UK's carbon emissions by only about 4% some time after 2025.

The Greenpeace statement is just the silliness one expects from them. You can always state that any specific X, Y or Z is only a few percent of emissions. It hardly means one shouldn't go for these reductions. There is no magic bullet with emissions (at least not yet). Major reductions in carbon emissions will take lots of little contributions adding up to a big total. Unfortunately Greenpeace and other so-called environmentalists live in a black and white world, and behave like spoiled brats when anyone dares to suggest that the world is in fact grey.

On the other hand, it is probably no coincidence that the BBC also chose to run a competing story on the same day (since the BBC is dominated by the same academic middle class people that run Greenpeace, and so are mostly anti-nuclear):

The cost of cleaning up the UK's ageing nuclear facilities, including some described as "dangerous", looks set to rise above £73bn, the BBC has learned.

A senior official at the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority said the bill would rise by billions of pounds.

Nineteen sites across the country, some dating from the 1950s, are due to be dismantled in the coming decades.

A spokesman for the Department for Business said it was ready for an adjustment in the clean-up costs.

In January, the National Audit Office said that the cost of decommissioning ageing power sites had risen from £12bn to £73bn.

Needless to say, the clean-up costs were somthing that was never budgeted for properly when nuclear plants were first commissioned, and it's not at all clear that the situation has changed since the 1950s. So it's quite possible that Gordon Brown is lumbering future generations with equally massive clean-up bills (of course this will be denied). Right now, though, nuclear looks like an important technology for the medium term.

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