Nuclear power is the lesser of two evils, argues ffinlo Costain

Energy security and climate change policies must be clear, effective and long-term. If we don’t adapt quickly to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels the lights will go off and Britain will stop producing. If we don’t cut global CO2 emissions dramatically we risk climate chaos. Right now it’s hard to see how Britain’s future can be secured without a new generation of nuclear power.

Peak oil may have already come, although the world recession has reduced demand and so far softened the blow. Peak oil has the greatest potential to destabilise our economy because of the sheer volume of processes oil is used for, from food and fuel to clothes and packaging, but other fossil fuels are running out as well. North Sea gas peaked in 2000. Our coal reserves are finite and should only be burned if we can develop foolproof carbon capture and storage capacity.

Then there’s climate change. Already our summers are hotter and drier, winds are stronger, and when the rains come they hammer like a monsoon.  While it’s impossible to attribute specific weather events to global warming, there’s no doubt that we’ll see more Cockermouths in the future. The cost of adapting and repairing our infrastructure may become Britain’s largest annual cost.

Britain could have a great renewables future. We’re the windiest nation in Europe and our geography gives superb access to both on and offshore wind. Add the undoubted potential for tidal power into the mix and Britain could become the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy. By 2050, with a coherent renewables strategy, the UK could be transformed from a net importer to a net exporter of energy.

Perhaps due to North Sea oil and gas Britain has been slow off the renewables mark. But, particularly since the publication of the Stern Review we’ve been racing to catch up. Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs), introduced in 2002, were a masterstroke that kick-started investment. Recent improvements to Feed-In Tariff (FiTs) values for microgenerators have ensured a rush to invest in smaller scale renewables.

Ambition exists. Acceptance of renewable power’s potential is growing. But the ultimate success of many new technologies is still uncertain. Supply intermittencies in technologies such as wind present a challenge. But through a varied patchwork of technologies coupled with an improved storage capacity we should expect to be able to distribute consistent power to Britain’s homes and businesses in the future. By 2050 we could be wholly self-sufficient in clean and constant renewable electricity, without the need for a conventional fuel back up.

In the mean time what do we do? Burning oil (and other fossil fuels) for electricity and heat is an appalling waste of an increasingly precious resource. It also generates millions of tonnes of CO2 each year.

Nuclear power is not clean. We know this. Radioactive waste is dangerous and volatile, storage and decommissioning present enormous risks. Despite the risks, nuclear energy has become the lesser of two evils. A new generation of nuclear electricity has the power to assist our economy and our society across the bridge to a renewable and largely CO2-free world.

If we stop wasting oil where alternatives exist, we can spread what’s left over a longer transitional period. We’ll also stand a better chance of averting climate catastrophe and reaching the necessary 80% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

However, an agreement to invest in a new generation of nuclear power stations must not be an alternative to renewables investment. This investment must bridge us to a future when wind, hydro, solar and tidal power can deliver the vast majority of Britain’s energy.

ffinlo Costain is Director of Costain Communications

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3 Responses to “Nuclear power is the lesser of two evils, argues ffinlo Costain”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ffinlo costain, Eleanor Sharman and Lib Dem Life, Labour Uncut. Labour Uncut said: Is nuclear power the lesser of two evils? […]

  2. Anchor 100 says:


    yes in general pity Labour came to this late in the day
    Itis als a pity that in 13 years of poweer the Labour Goverment did not invest in research in to clean burn of Coal as we have on prudent calculations enough under the ground for about 100 years !!!

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