Will Nuclear End Our Energy Crisis?
Written by Lima Curtis
Fuel poverty for third of households by 2030 unless nuclear power plants built
David King: If we want to keep the lights on, then nuclear is a good idea
Oliver Tickell: We would need 10,000 nuclear plants to provide the majority of global energy need.
The cost to the tax payer for one single reactor would be $100 billion so building 10,000 would cost $1 quadrillion.
Andrew Pendleton: nuclear is ‘increasingly expensive, risky power’
AFTER much deliberation, planning permission has been granted for a brand new nuclear plant in Hinkley, the first in the UK in a generation.
Not a day goes by without scare stories of energy black outs, energy price rises and global climate change. Meanwhile, it is estimated that a new Germany is added to the world’s grid every year in terms of energy use. And as long as developing countries continue to gobble up huge amounts of energy to access healthcare, education and growing economies, the trend will continue.
But is nuclear energy really the solution to this crisis?
Professor Sir David King, former governmental chief scientific advisor, seems to think so. Speaking at a sustainable building conference in London last week he said that the government could solve our energy and economy by investing directly in nuclear.
“If we want to keep the lights on, then nuclear is a good idea,” he said. “If we want to stimulate economy, it might be a better idea to create direct stimulation by investing in the energy sector… and while nuclear is expensive to build, we know the government can borrow very cheaply at 0.5%.”
He warned if the UK continued to import its fuel, the economy would never recover, attributing Italy’s collapsed economy to expensive oil imports. Energy analysts from the UK Centre for Policy Studies, however, claim one in three households will be in fuel poverty by 2030 unless nuclear power plants are built.
Currently nuclear power generates around one sixth of the United Kingdom's electricity, and planning permission has been granted for two new reactors in Hinkley in the south of England. Sizewell B, on the UK’s East coast, was the last nuclear plant to be built almost 18 years ago.
However author, journalist and campaigner Oliver Tickell was less optimistic presenting the huge cost of construction, insurance, research grants and decommissioning.
“We would need 10,000 nuclear plants to provide the majority of global energy need,” Tickell said. “The cost to the tax payer for one single reactor would be $100 billion, so building 10,000 would cost $1 quadrillion. Nuclear industry is in state of desperation.”
He instead suggested that the government give greater support to the renewables (solar, wind and tidal) industry which he said was booming. And he’s not alone. In a letter to the Guardian, the head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Andrew Pendleton described nuclear as ‘increasingly expensive, risky power’.
“Even if the nuclear industry delivers on time, new reactors won't be ready until the 2020's, and could end up costing consumers tens of billions of pounds,” Pendleton said.
Although the UK government has decided to invest in research with 12 other EU member states, the greatest worry to both sides is not whether more nuclear plants will be created in the UK or not, but the lack of clear and decisive leadership from the government on the issue.
“I don’t think there is a coherent policy,” Professor King added. “...we need clear transparent policy from the government, from the Prime Minister. We need to know what the cabinet is going to do to deliver energy and meet demands.”
Lima Curtis writes about energy and the environment for many different sites including The Independent, The Energy Saving Trust and The EcoExperts
All but two UK regions failing on school energy efficiency
Most schools are still "treading water" on implementing energy efficient technology, according to new analysis of Government data from eLight.
Yorkshire & the Humber and the North East are the only regions where schools have collectively reduced how much they spend on energy per pupil, cutting expenditure by 4.4% and 0.9% respectively. Every other region of England increased its average energy expenditure per pupil, with schools in Inner London doing so by as much as 23.5%.
According to The Carbon Trust, energy bills in UK schools amount to £543 million per year, with 50% of a school’s total electricity cost being lighting. If every school in the UK implemented any type of energy efficient technology, over £100 million could be saved each year.
Harvey Sinclair, CEO of eEnergy, eLight’s parent company, said the figures demonstrate an uncomfortable truth for the education sector – namely that most schools are still treading water on the implementation of energy efficient technology. Energy efficiency could make a huge difference to meeting net zero ambitions, but most schools are still lagging behind.
“The solutions exist, but they are not being deployed fast enough," he said. "For example, we’ve made great progress in upgrading schools to energy-efficient LED lighting, but with 80% of schools yet to make the switch, there’s an enormous opportunity to make a collective reduction in carbon footprint and save a lot of money on energy bills. Our model means the entire project is financed, doesn’t require any upfront expenditure, and repayments are more than covered by the energy savings made."
He said while it has worked with over 300 schools, most are still far too slow to commit. "We are urging them to act with greater urgency because climate change won’t wait, and the need for action gets more pressing every year. The education sector has an important part to play in that and pupils around the country expect their schools to do so – there is still a huge job to be done."
North Yorkshire County Council is benefiting from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, which has so far awarded nearly £1bn for energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation projects around the country, and Craven schools has reportedly made a successful £2m bid (click here).
The Department for Education has issued 13 tips for reducing energy and water use in schools.