Nuclear Power Debate

September 19, 2006

‘We must embrace nuclear power to solve global warming’


Yesterday I went to a very interesting debate on nuclear power and the role that it should play in the future of Britain’s energy supply. The debaters were Caroline Lucas of the Green Party and Tim Jackson of the Sustainable Development Commision speaking against the need for nuclear. Speaking for were Paul Domjan, an expert on energy security with the pro business think tank and Dr Patrick Moore co-founder of Greenpeace (yes sounds incredible but more later)


I feel that I should declare myself straight away and say that I am dead against the building of more nuclear power and that its use should be phased out as much as possible. The debate was lively and the audience distinctly pronuclear which made things even more inciteful as they tried to convince themselves that they were right, and succeeding in the great part.


Dr Patrick Moore cofounder of Greenpeace and now working at his own consultancy firm, Greenspirit, has an amazing past and holds very controversial positions given his environmental background. He was on the original Greenpeace boat that sailed out and started the organization, ironically to try and stop the
US testing nuclear bombs in 1971. He now believes in nuclear, GM, deforestation, increased use of plastics and the list just goes on. To find out more go to
http://www.greenspirit.com. He was at pains to remind everyone that it was a moral and proper decision to go for nuclear to avoid climate change, that it was cost effective by citing some disputed examples, that most fuel being used was in fact recycled fuel and that there would not be the mountains of waste the alarmist were predicting. The other main argument put forward for nuclear were that it was essential to develop to ensure that we were no longer totally reliant on our gas from places Russia and oil for the middle east and other unstable areas (mainly due to western involvement).


Caroline Lucas made a very impassioned case against the need for nuclear power in the energy mix of a future Britain. She stressed the very sensible proposition that the future should be a combination of energy efficiency, both in the home and business, which would reduce our carbon emissions by 40%, combined with a focus on renewables and making our existing power stations greener by carbon capture and storage. However she did not say exactly what technology she thought would be most viable to replace our existing power generation, nor any assurance that carbon storage was close to being a realistic proposition in the near term. The most convincing arguments for me came from Tim Jackson who delivered the performance of the night. He has just completed one of the most comprehensive reviews of the feasibility of nuclear power which you can read by clicking here. He focused on the white elephant of nuclear energy which is that noone know how much it really costs. No nuclear power plant has ever been decommissioned so that the land can be used again, no nuclear fuel has yet been stored in a permanent location (all English nuclear waste is still stored temporarily while the government decides what to do with it) let alone actually rendered safe to people. And for the moment the technology does not exist to dispose and process the waste of nuclear power. Also no nuclear power plant has yet been run without huge amounts of government subside and British Nuclear Fuel has sucked about 70 billion pounds over the last decades and have yet to dispose of waste. Finally he emphasised that even if we did build lots of new nuclear it would not dramatically reduce our carbon emissions (only 8% he claimed) so why bother with all the investment and risks of decommissioning.


At the end of the debate despite what I saw as convincing arguments from the anti nuclear side that audience for 75% in favour. I suppose this was not too surprising given that it was hosted by a conservative journal and business friendly think tank.


One comment

  1. n. literally John Crow, buzzard (7) Zalecenia an adverbial phrase; following a verb of liking or

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