Nuclear Power: For Or Against

Mark Sandford - February 2012
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Last week, the British Government signed an accord with France in respect to future co-operation on civil nuclear energy with a view to sharing expertise and increasing the means available to the IAEA when dealing with countries such as Iran that are suspected of a deliberate attempt to build a nuclear weapon. This reflects the fact that both countries have pioneered nuclear power in their day and France generates a greater amount of her energy requirement by nuclear than many other European countries. Indeed, it was the UK that built the world's first nuclear reactor at Windscale.

At present, 17% of electricity generated in this country comes from nuclear power. Practicality demands that the nuclear option remains on the table. Renewables such as wind power or offshore turbines will never be able to supply future demand for energy on their own, even with improving technology. Like it or lump it, we have to the face the fact that we will still have to burn some fossil fuels in this nation for several years to come.

The government has taken one step last week to providing a boost for more investment in the nuclear option. At present, a number of sites are earmarked for new plants in the UK such as Sizewell in Suffolk or Heysham in Lancashire. This could also create more jobs too which would be welcome. Everyone is aware of the risks associated with nuclear power particularly after the accident at the Fukushima plant which was hit by a tsunami after the earthquake. But the nuclear industry in the UK has maintained an excellent safety record. We have never had an accident on the scale of Chernobyl or Three Mile Island in the USA.

There is another argument for continued investment in nuclear power. More generation by UK plants would decrease the nation's dependence on imports of natural gas by pipeline from such places as the Russian Federation. This energy stream can cut in an instant by someone turning off the tap somewhere. Iran has just retaliated against the West by banning oil exports to several countries including ourselves over the continuing dispute concerning its use of nuclear power.

If we desire to reduce the amount of fossil fuels consumed to provide electricity for environmental reasons, then nuclear has to remain as part of the energy mix. More generation by nuclear power would cut the need for oil and coal. We also have to acknowledge the fact that energy demand will ultimately go up over the long term, regardless of what occurs with future climate change. Industrial competitiveness demands that UK industry has a secure and price efficient source of energy. With unemployment now rampant at 2.67 million persons out of work, it would be a crime to lose sight of this obvious fact.


Mark Sandford - Permission granted to freely distribute this article for non-commercial purposes if attributed to Mark Sandford, unedited and copied in full, including this notice.

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