Here are some points from 'Nuclear Power - No Thanks' to consider for your submission to the government's Energy Review. Good luck!
Nuclear power is not the solution to climate change
In 2003 the government believed we could reduce carbon emissions by 60% by 2050 without nuclear power. Patricia Hewitt (Sec of State for Trade and Industry) said "If we achieve a step change in both energy efficiency and renewables we will be able to move beyond 2020 to 2050 without the need for a generation of nuclear power stations." Nothing has changed since then.
Even if 10 new nuclear power stations were built, they would only reduce total carbon emissions by about 5%. This is because only 30% of emissions come from electricity generation - another 60% come from transport, industry, homes, waste and agriculture. Nuclear has no effect on these at all.
Building new nuclear power stations takes a long time - even the first would not be up and running until 2018. We can't afford to wait that long (especially for such a tiny saving of carbon emissions). Emissions need to be cut now.
Nuclear is not carbon neutral. Mining, processing and transporting uranium ore for fuel all produce carbon emissions (7% of Australia's carbon emissions come from its uranium mining), as do the building and decommissioning of nuclear power stations, production and enrichment of fuel and the treatment, transport and containment of nuclear waste which has to be kept for hundreds of thousands of years. As high grade uranium ores run out (which will happen within the next 50 years) the amount of carbon dioxide generated to support nuclear power production will increase massively.
Support for nuclear undermines the real solutions to climate change. Patricia Hewitt 2003: "It would have been foolish to announce... that we would embark on a new generation of nuclear power stations because that would have guaranteed that we would not make the necessary investment in both energy efficiency and renewables. That is why we are not going to build a new generation of nuclear power stations now." To ensure we deal with climate change we need to change the way we generate and use energy now. Waiting for nuclear in 15-20 years time will be too late, and will keep the focus on electricity instead of addressing all carbon emissions. Already this government is watering down targets for energy efficiency and renewables.
Reducing demand, energy efficiency and renewable technologies are sustainable, safe, non-nuclear solutions to climate change
In its energy review in 2003 the government itself identified ways of achieving a 30% reduction in energy demand. In fact, energy efficiency could reduce UK emissions by 40% by 2050 and a further 20% cut could be achieved through proven and safe technologies like wind, solar and combined heat and power programmes.
Woking Borough Council has cut its carbon emissions by 70% through energy efficiency, combined heat and power and renewables operating through private grid networks.
Paying to put in place energy efficiency measures is a permanent way to reduce demand for energy. At least twice (and maybe seven times) as much carbon dioxide can be saved through energy efficiency than nuclear power for the same cost - and the efficiency savings are permanent.
If 25% of central heating boilers were replaced with Combined Heat and Power units over the next 15 years, they would provide the equivalent of 6 new nuclear power stations worth of energy.
Policies the government could/should implement which would reduce demand, increase efficiency and encourage renewables include: improving public transport, reducing car use and tackling the growth in air travel, reducing food miles; making old buildings more energy efficient and ensuring that new build is carbon neutral; increasing micro-generation and local generation from renewables and decreasing reliance on the national grid, and building more efficient power stations for example Combined Heat and Power.
Nuclear power is not a solution to the energy gap from 2010-2020
If the government does go for nuclear, the earliest power stations won't be operational until 2018, which is too late to deal with any energy gap. However, with renewables, efficiency and demand reduction and gas, there is no gap. The problem is the government implementing these measures while spending its money and energy on new nuclear build.
The national grid and base load: their implications for nuclear power and renewables
The national grid favours a centralised market dominated by a few big companies. This means that it undermines more energy- and carbon-efficient, smaller-scale technologies by failing to accommodate their input.
Decentralised generation is generated where it is used, increasing its efficiency. It can also put surplus energy back into the national grid - but only if the grid is upgraded and adapted to accept it. Adaptation would cost less than 5% of the £56 billion the government is going to have to spend decommissioning our current nuclear power generation system.
Since nuclear power stations are inflexible and can only run at maximum, they can only provide what is called the base load of a centralised power system. In a more flexible national grid the base load could be provided by tidal power and biomass energy, which can be stored and used when needed.
Nuclear power is very expensive
It is always cheaper to save energy than to generate more, and according to the Rocky Mountain Institute, every pound invested in efficiency displaces nearly seven times as much carbon dioxide as a pound invested in nuclear power.
The track record of the nuclear industry in completing to time and budget is poor. For example, the last nuclear power station to be built in the UK was Sizewell, and during its planning and building its capital costs doubled.
It is estimated that the cost of providing security against terrorism for nuclear power plants is around £50 million per year.