Nuclear Not the Answer

Reporting to the UK Government, the Sustainable Development Commission has concluded that nuclear power is not the answer to Britain's future energy needs.

The SDC, the Government's independent watchdog on sustainable development, based it's findings on eight research papers and the report has delivered the SDC's result on the pros & cons of nuclear power, examining the options in a balanced and impartial manner.

The positive outcomes of their research on nuclear energy are:

  1. Low carbon emissions - Nuclear energy is a low carbon emission energy source. This would contribute to stablilising our CO2 emissions and help diversify the UK's energy generation supplies.
  2. Industrial Safety - Nuclear energy does have a good safety record in the UK.

However, that is as far as the positives for nuclear energy go.

By contrast the five major disadvantages the SDC has identified are:

  1. Nuclear Waste – There are no definitive long-term solutions for the safe disposal of nuclear waste. With public concerns over hazardous waste safety in disposal can not be guaranteed.
  2. Cost – There is much uncertainty regarding the economics of new nuclear power facilities. The nuclear industry is in private ownership so there is absolutely no justification for any public subsidy let alone the risk to the taxpayer to pay for overbudget projects.
  3. Inflexibility – Currently the opportunities for local generation & distribution of power are strong. Generating nuclear energy would supposedly centralise distribution for the next 50 years!
  4. Undermining energy efficiency – Energy efficiency is currently a key topic and to allow energy use to continue at the current inefficient levels by using technology as a quick fix would send out completely the wrong message.
  5. International security – By pursuing a new nuclear power programme in the 21st century, the UK would not be able to deny the same technology to other countries, though with unproven safety standards there is concern at high risk of nuclear proliferation, potential terrorism, accidents and possible nuclear disasters.

Being fair the SDC considers the disadvantages outweigh the advantages though it does not rule out further research into nuclear technology to vastly improve safety, disposal and other shortfalls.

The Chairman of the SDC, Jonathon Porritt, concluded:

"There's little point in denying that nuclear power has benefits, but in our view, these are outweighed by serious disadvantages."

The issue could be raised again in the future, but for now it looks like we're safe.

Read the SDC Report "The Role of Nuclear Power in a Low Carbon Economy" (158k pdf)