Nuclear power is essential to Britain's energy securityby Keith Parker / January 21, 2015 / Leave a comment
Backed by the British government, three consortia of international energy companies have announced plans to build 11 new nuclear reactors of three different designs at five sites in England and Wales by around 2030.
Less than 10 years ago such a statement would have been unthinkable. Yet this has now become a reality, driven by concerns about energy security as Britain becomes increasingly dependent on imported energy, combined with the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat the causes of climate change, an issue that has become all the more pertinent with oil at $50 per barrel.
Furthermore, successive governments have sought to remove the barriers to investment by private sector developers in new nuclear and other low carbon generating capacity. Importing energy could become all the more attractive, but using fossil fuels to power our national grid will not help meet the strict climate change targets which will be further negotiated in Paris later this year.
Changes to the regulatory, planning and financial systems set in place by Labour have been delivered by the coalition. This has transformed the prospects for the nuclear sector, saving it from being a sunset industry. The industry employs over 50,000 jobs and generates a fifth of Britain’s electricity. Britain was a pioneer in nuclear technology, and is having to confront the challenge of decommissioning defunct nuclear power stations earlier than other countries.
All but one of Britain’s nuclear stations are destined to close in the next decade. This will remove not only a substantial part of electricity generating capacity, which would likely be replaced by imported gas, but also the single largest source of low carbon power. That is why the planned investment of tens of billions of pounds in new nuclear capacity over the next 15 years is so important for security and for emissions reductions.
These major projects have cross-party support, and public approval. Even in the dreadful aftermath of Fukushima the government’s resolve was maintained. Public support, which fell after the accident, recovered following assurance from the regulator that the British industry was safe, and would learn the…