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Japan hasn’t changed Brits’ nuclear outlook

Nuclear power plants

The Fukushima disaster in Japan has made us all think about the safety of nuclear power. But have our opinions actually changed? Do we still think nuclear is an essential energy source to slow climate change?

Despite the recent nuclear disaster in Japan, more than eight in ten Britons either support nuclear power as the best way to tackle climate change, or think it might have a role in the UK’s energy mix, according to a survey from Populus. Only one in five are opposed to nuclear under any circumstances.

A solution to climate change

The Committee on Climate Change has told the government that nuclear is currently the cheapest low-carbon option. The UK has a very ambitious target: to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050 in order to alleviate climate change. This means that we either need lots of renewables, nuclear or both.

But are we forgetting about the dangers of nuclear in a rush to limit climate change?

It used to be that nuclear risks (Chernobyl anyone?) and the issue of what to do with its waste were enough to drive public opinion against nuclear power. But these concerns seem to have been overshadowed by the urgency to deal with climate change.

Nuclear doesn’t burn gas or coal, so it emits very little carbon. But in concentrating on carbon reduction, are we taking shortcuts and leaving future generations with toxic waste and obsolete nuclear reactors that will need (costly) decommissioning? And what if an earthquake or tsunami did hit our shores…

Nuclear opinions split on Conversation

When we first asked whether we should stop building nuclear power plants in the UK, opinions were split. Tommo argued that ‘only nuclear can provide the future self-sufficient energy needs of this population.’ And Fat Sam agreed:

‘If you look at the safety record of fossil fuel sources, the nuclear industry is positively safe! 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 the UK.’

However, Marylin Dismore contended that ‘nuclear is a 20th century response to a 21st century problem’, with Sophie Gilbert adding:

‘I wouldn’t advocate that we shut down all nuclear plants at once, but that we phase them out one by one as we introduce renewable energy plants and other devices everywhere possible.’

Are we safe in the UK?

Sir David King, ex-government adviser, has said that nuclear is historically the safest form of generating electricity. Besides, chief inspeactor Mike Weightam has argued that extreme natural events like the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami are not credible in the UK. Is that enouigh reassurance to think nothing will ever go wrong with our nuclear power plants?

Something has to give. Either we concentrate on avoiding climate change by building more nuclear power plants, or we avoid potential catastrophic nuclear fallouts by building more coal and gas powered stations to meet our rising demand for electricity.

Or do you think renewable energy is a viable solution to not only meet our power demands, but to avoid climate change and a potential nuclear threat?

Profile photo of richard

As far as I’m concerned – I’ve been worried about Nuclear Power production since around the 1950s because it is not only inherently unsafe and can cause massive long term pollution when it does go wrong BUT the massive amount of very long term waste.that is produced AND it is a main reason for the lack of investment and progress in renewables.

Many Brits seem to view it with rose coloured specs and little understanding.

The Japanese are not looking so benignly on Nuclear Power are they – I wonder why?

Profile photo of fat sam

probably because they live in an earthquake zone and tsunami-prone zone and we, well, er, don’t.

Yours, clearly with little understanding

Fat Sam

Sophie Gilbert says:
26 May 2011

Here we go again.

Two facts: 1) we still do not know how to deal with the very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very long term waste effectively; 2) even if nuclear technology were perfect, which it isn’t, we still wouldn’t be safe from human stupidity, malevolence, or error, the consequences of any of these being beyond disastrous.

I absolutely refute this argument: “Something has to give. Either we concentrate on avoiding climate change by building more nuclear power plants, or we avoid potential catastrophic nuclear fallouts by building more coal and gas powered stations to meet our rising demand for electricity.” We are not in an “either or” situation. Nuclear energy is not the only form of renewable energy out there.

Progress is being made all the time to make the other forms of renewable energy more and more efficient and viable, and new ideas are coming along as we speak. Each form of renewable energy on its own may not be able to replace nuclear energy, but a combination of them must be the solution. And let’s stop wasting energy in the first place!!!

Linda says:
26 May 2011

Well this is a debate that goes around in circles isn’t it? Firstly when a disaster of this magnitude happens there is always a shock response, firstly for the lives lost and then for the lives that could be lost- the generations to come and the side affects from those generation, the mutations of the human and cell and ultimately to the body. That will affect us all and change us all as a race. If we don t want this sort of thing to happen we have to look outside of the box.

If what we are doing isn’t working them do something else. So it is not about building more secure power stations be they gas, coal, or nuclear. It is using the basis of what we do have and adapting that. Yes wind technology is good but a lot of it is needed and that is not always possible.

Consider- the earth, not far from the crust is very warm, the deeper you go the hotter it becomes. That is a constant heat, it wont die down and it wont need more fuel to be added to it. What about using the technology we have to access that heat and use it to power our energy plants. You can create steam from that heat, that will drive motors that will generate electricity. Or you use the push and pull of the moon, with our tremendous coast lines in this country we can use that wave power that is free, as long as the moon is there we have an energy source. I bet if the powers that be were told you have to use these two methods and nothing else they would find and economical way. Or is it just that a company can not charge for an energy source that belongs to mankind. Come on you clever brains sort it out- it can be done

Liz says:
27 May 2011

Nuclear may be a clean option for electricity generation, but it is hugely dirty in its decomissioning phase. But I beleive the main agrugment aginst nuclear is that we simply can’t afford it.
Apparently no company will quote to build you a nuclear power station, as no one can predict how much it will all cost in the end. These things take for ever to build and need to be heavily subsidised by government in order to get them up and running.No government is prepared to tell us how much this is costing the taxpayer now – let along the cost to us of building new ones.
If the same money was invested in micro-generation on all homes, and on exploiting the huge potential of wind and wave power around our island shores, we’d have enough energy and to spare. We have 25% of all the wind in Europe here, and ought to be using it constructively. Those NIMBYs who protest every time wind, wave power or energy reclamation from waste is suggested are being very shortsighted. Where were all the protestors when those ugly pylons were being marched all over the countryside? Yet we put up with those in order to get the power into our homes and workplaces.
We can’t live without electricity these days, so let’s admit it and get on with finding the most sustainable method of producing it.