27 November 2007

Gordon Brown And Nuclear Power

Gordon Brown, in his speech to the CBI earlier this week, said:

We must - and will - take the right long term decisions to invest now for the next generation of sustainable and secure energy supplies. We have said that new nuclear power stations potentially have a role to play in tackling climate change and improving energy security. And having concluded the full public consultation we will announce our final decision early in the New Year ... We must leave behind the old policies of yesterday and plan for new long-term policies which will serve us better tomorrow.
The reality is that Gordon Brown is the leader following a short-term way of thinking. The Ecologist, in its November issue (page 39), has a sidebar on nuclear power. It reveals some interesting facts.

- You need a certain purity of uranium ore to make nuclear power carbon neutral ... specifically, it has to be above 0.02%. Below this, "nuclear power uses more energy in the form of fossil fuel than it generates as electricity." So, how long will high quality uranium ore last us? Well, at our current rate of use, it will last us 42 years. But, if we really ramp up our global use of nuclear power (India is currently building 24 reactors, China 40, Russia 40, Japan 13), it'll last a much shorter time (perhaps 12 years).

- The UK, currently, has a stockpile of 100 000 tonnes of nuclear waste. Even without new plants, this will grow to 500 000 tonnes, and we will already have to pay £75 billion to clean up our nuclear waste.

Robert Kyriakides adds that:

Certainly, using nuclear energy is low carbon in the short term. But, when you add not just the carbon consequences of mining the uranium and processing it, and also the carbon consequences of building huge underground concrete storage bunkers for the waste and maintaining these for ten thousand years or so, you will find the low carbon alternative has morphed into a higher carbon one.
Two myths: one, that nuclear is carbon neutral (that's true only in the short term), and two, that you can have both nuclear and renewables. The renewables industry needs government pump-priming to seriously get off the ground. You can't keep massively subsidising the nuclear industry, whilst starving the renewables sector of funding.

Gordon Brown has to choose.


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