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Should we stop building nuclear power plants?

Nuclear power plant and dark cloud

As the world is bracing itself for a nuclear catastrophe in Japan, should we stop building nuclear power plants in the UK? If so, would you be willing to minimise your electricity consumption to avoid going nuclear?

No one can be left insensitive to the footage of entire villages being swept away by the tsunami after the recent earthquake in Japan.

And, if an earthquake and a tsunami were not enough, Japan now braces itself for a possible nuclear disaster. So while we’re all watching the events unfold, should our government reconsider nuclear power?

Changes have already been made, with an announcement today that there will be a crackdown on safety tests at European nuclear plants. But should we stop investing in nuclear power?

A vicious circle

The more electricity we need, the more electricity we have to produce. Conventional electricity production, based on fossil fuel, creates greenhouse gases which in turn are responsible for climate change.

Climate change means rising temperatures, which lead to more extreme weather conditions and more frequent and violent natural disaster like typhoons, flooding, droughts, etc.

In turn, these extreme events, like last week’s horrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan result in death, displacement, and even a threat from nuclear power plants.

Is this Mother Nature taking her revenge on climate change and rectifying the balance?

More nuclear plants?

While nuclear power is deemed ‘low carbon’ in comparison to more conventional fossil fuel based power generation, the risks attached to nuclear when things go wrong are very high.

At the same time, our governments, in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions and alleviate climate change, are proposing to build more nuclear power plants. With more natural disasters likely to happen all of us could be at a higher risk of nuclear catastrophes.

One rational solution would be to stop building nuclear power stations altogether, but this would in turn require more investment in renewable energy and a reduction in our power consumption. So how far are we actually prepared to go to reduce the electricity we all use?

Do you think we should stop building nuclear power plants in the UK, or should we continue building them as we are, albeit with a greater concentration on safety?

Comments
Guest
Fat Sam, Glos says:
16 March 2011

In a word, ‘no’.

If you look at the safety record of fossil fuel sources the nuclear industry is positively safe! Not to mention the carbon benefits, even taking into consideration construction, waste storage and decommissioning.

I notice Germany have responded with a positively-knee-jerk reaction to the crisis currently unfolding in Japan. But politicians, and human nature, seem to forget one thing: making decisions based on reason rather than emotion.

The crisis in Japan was caused first by an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Now, I’m no expert but I think both are highly unlikely in Germany, or indeed in the UK.

This is a typical reaction to a major news story. More people probably die falling off a roof each year or down the stairs – why don’t we ban roofs and stairs?

Discuss.

Guest
Tommo,Northants says:
18 March 2011

We are on an island which will soon be supporting 70 million souls.
Sorry, windfarms and solar panels are a naive diversion; only Nuclear can provide the future self sufficient energy needs of this population.
The longer we delay, the longer we put ourselves at the mercy of the unpredictable foreign states pumping gas or shipping oil to the U.K.
.

Guest

One paragraph says it all:

“One rational solution would be to stop building nuclear power stations altogether, but this would in turn require more investment in renewable energy and a reduction in our power consumption.”

To me, that is absolutely the answer – we have the natural resources (including hundreds of miles of hydro-electric-and-windfarm-friendly coastline), as well as the technical knowhow to be world leaders in renewable energy production. It just takes a bit of long-term planning and support from the government. With the risk of nuclear meltdown as ullustrated in Japan, together with political uncertainty in oil- and gas-producing countries – surely we have no other choice?

Guest

Can we control nuclear power if something goes wrong?
No.

Then what on Earth are we doing building more of what is beyond our control & runs the risk of SEVERELY damaging not just us but all of life around us.

Grrrr.

Guest

Completely agree with Martyn.

The government need to invest, and create incentives for the energy industry to invest, in renewable energy. Investing in nuclear is like bailing out a leaking boat – ultimately it doesn’t fix the problem. What happens when we run out of Uranium, last I heard stocks weren’t running sky high.

The Government need to stop being so short-termist with their long-term targets – making targets for 2020, 2050 or in some cases, 2080 (!) is pointless as there is no incentive for them to meet them. They may not be alive, let alone still in power, to see whether their targets have been met.

Guest
SimonT says:
16 March 2011

I understand that investing in renewable energy alone is impractical – wind turbines with only 5-8% efficiency etc – therefore the UK, being a small and over crowded island, has to invest in nuclear power or the population better start stock piling candles.

Guest
Anonymous says:
18 March 2011

Ha! This comment about stock piling candles was lifted straight out of the (ahem) most reliable of educated news sources, the Daily Mail!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1366274/Japan-tsunami-earthquake-Nuclear-power-plants-dangerous.html

Guest

INteresting that so far the comments and agree / disagree thumbs, suggest a strong majority saying invest in renewables and stop nuclear.

I’ve always been anti-nuclear, but not (I hope) unthinkingly so.

Martyn makes a superb point about all the renewables that we could be investing in and which successive governments have failed to do so. Simon T asserts that investment in renewable alone is impractical and indicates a poor efficiency rating for one renewable (wind turbines).

If renewables are so ineffective why do so many other countries invest so heavily in them and how do they get such massive amounts of power from them? Indeed, if they are so ineffective why is our own government, and the last one of the opposite political view, want us all to have our own renewable generation systems in or on our homes and offices?

Miranda makes another outstanding point by mentioning how short termist governments and indeed many individuals seem to be.

Fat Sam mentions increasing energy demand. So why are we being forced to have energy saving lightbulbs and so on to REDUCE our power use? They can’t be working if demand is still rising!

WHEN, and only when, we see our coastlines, shores and suitable land spaces filled with turbines, solar arrays and tidal wave power generators, and when suitable rivers have hydro schemes built on them, AND there is still a proven shortfall in supply, I will be happy to give a reluctant, and cautious, welcome to further investment in nuclear generation. UNTIL BOTH of those conditions apply I am firmly in the no more nuclear camp, and Japan’s terrible misfortune, coming after Windscale (Sellafield) (1950’s), Three-Mile Island (1950’s), Chrnobyl (1980’s) and all the other (so called) minor accidents in between, does, I am afraid, only serve to make the point that Nuclear is not safe and not controllable.

As an aside, I strongly suspect that if the Nuclear industry had been properly funded from square 1 it would be far safer, but that would have been to admit the lie that was, and sometimes still is, perpetuated, that it is cheap. Unsafe nuclear may be cheapER, but no nuclear will ever be “too cheap to meter” as they used to try to tell us.

Guest
SimonT says:
16 March 2011

The trouble with this topic is we all have different views and we can all pontificate away happily. Both sides of the argument will twist the facts, consciously or unconsciously, to suit their case. Therefore what we need is the fuel security options with their cost, return and consequences laid out by some independent body to allow us all to make a rational decision.