Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Nuclear Question

The tragic events in Japan over the last 10 days has once again raised the issue of nuclear power and how this fits into our energy generation in the UK and whether we should be moving away from this method.  Chris Huhne has recently been discussing the prospect of nuclear power not playing as much of a role as we anticipated, particularly as it will be harder to finance them.

Mark Cole wrote an excellent blog last week on his position and I wonder to what extent he is right about it being a generational thing as I am also too young to remember Chernobyl and unlike many in my party have always been open to nuclear power.  My position is despite growing up with The Simpsons where Homer is their safety inspector - leading it to be anything but safe.

It's not a questions of being a supporter, more a case of looking at it practically, we need energy, any growing economy since the industrial revolution has needed to increase it's energy production in order to enable the growth.  At the same time renewable energy is not reliable - looking out of my window the sun is covered by cloud and the trees aren't moving - not exactly ideal conditions for energy conversion!  In addition to this fossil fuels obviously need to be phased out as they are neither renewable or environmentally friendly and we want to move as close to self sufficiency in this area as possible.  As I have said before I have every faith in mankind's ability to innovate but looking at things at the moment I don't think it would be feasible for nuclear energy to not be part of our portfolio.

The obvious caveat is that they need to be safe.  There is the potential for devastating disasters where nuclear reactions are involved, these risks need to be minimised.  The main point here is we are not Japan.  Our location isn't nearly as risky as theirs.  The amount of tectonic activity around their region is much greater than ours as they lie on the "Pacific Ring of Fire" whilst we haven't really seen anything to the same extent (apart from maybe the 1607 tsunami).  I know they need to be near a source of water in order to enable the cooling, but it makes me wonder if it wouldn't be better to have them slightly further away from the coast.

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