Nuclear blow to UK climate policy

Feature story - 10 January, 2008
The UK government have made much of their green credentials boasting that they lead the world in tackling climate change. So what do they do? Give the green light to a new generation of nuclear power stations that will cost billions, eventually deliver only tiny cuts in carbon emissions and leave future generations with a legacy of nuclear waste to clean up.

Any new nuclear plants will leave a deadly radioactive legacy for future generations who will be those who pay the colossal clean up costs.

The fact is, going nuclear won't solve the UK's or the world's global warming problem because it can only deliver around a 4 percent cut in carbon emissions some time after 2020. That's far too little, far too late and at too high a price.

The UK nuclear industry itself has said that the most optimistic date for just one nuclear plant to be up and running is 2017. And, don't forget, no nuclear plant has ever been built on time and or budget. Any private company considering building UK reactors should take a look at Finland's new nuclear fiasco. The global nuclear industries flagship project in Finland is already 2 years behind schedule, 1.5 Billion Euros over budget and has over 1,500 safety defects and problems. All after just 2 years of construction.

The nuclear lobby pretends that nuclear power is necessary to plug the energy gap in the UK. Over the next few years, several existing UK nuclear and coal plants are set to close. This is the 'energy' (ie electricity) gap. This gap is predicted to occur around 2015. New nuclear plants won't even be built then so can't fill any predicted UK energy gap.

The UK government also claims nuclear is needed to secure UK energy needs. However nuclear currently delivers just four percent of UK energy supply.

Most gas is used for purposes other than producing electricity - mainly used for heating, hot water and for industrial purposes. Nuclear power can never replace that energy.

And it's a similar case for oil as it's virtually all used for transport - nuclear power can't take its place.  And coal isn't an option if we are serious about cutting emissions.

Supporters of nuclear power also ignore the fact that we are no nearer to finding a safe way to dispose of nuclear waste. Pushing ahead with nuclear power will mean more deadly radioactive waste that we have simply no idea what to do with, and for which future generations will have to pay the price.

Instead of wasting time and cash on an energy source that can't deliver, it's time for the UK and others to wake up to reality and start investing in the real solutions to halt climate change. These alternatives are cheaper, cleaner and safer and are available right now.

Energy [R]evolution

We need an energy revolution that focuses on energy efficiency, cleaner use of fossil fuels, renewables and state-of-the-art decentralised power stations.  This is outlined in our report: 'energy [r]evolution', details how to halve global CO2 emissions by 2050, using existing technology and still providing affordable energy and economic growth. A revolution in energy policy and evolution in how we use energy.

It is no coincidence that countries like Germany and Sweden, who have ditched the nuclear option, have slashed their carbon emissions and have burgeoning renewable energy sectors - renewable energy made up 14 percent of Germany's energy consumption last year. On the other hand, in Finland, where they are focusing on building that behind schedule and over budget reactor, greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 16 percent.

While countries like the UK and Finland seemingly pin their hopes on a technology that has never delivered on promises, renewable technologies are already delivering. In Germany renewable energy growth last year equaled the output of one nuclear plant (that takes many years to build).

The answer is simple - renewable technology and energy efficiency is able to deliver the reliable low carbon energy that we need to tackle climate change. Nuclear can't.

More from our UK office:

The colossal lies at the heart of the UK government’s nuclear fundamentalism and why nuclear is dangerous distraction to the tackling climate change.

In depth report:

Nuclear Power is Not the Answer to Climate Change

Sign Up

Get involved and be a part of the real solution to climate change.


Help keep Greenpeace in action