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UK love-in between Tories and Labour, on wasting billions of pounds on new nuclear reactors

Leslie Riddoch: THEY can melt down, contaminate a country and threaten air
and water resources across a continent. They are vulnerable to earthquake,
tsunami and war. Their energy is more expensive per unit than almost any
other kind.

Yet, listening to the love-in during Prime Ministers Questions,
it’s clear that nuclear energy is back and Johnson and Starmer are hooked
on the power of the atom to tackle the escalating energy crisis. Boris
Johnson blamed Labour for cancelling nuclear plants. Starmer
counter-claimed that Tory plants had more starts than a dodgy apprentice
(in so many words) but then listed nuclear in his own preferred energy mix.

Johnson pounced on this, proclaiming there is “more joy in heaven over
one sinner that repents” … no he couldn’t quite remember the whole
quote either. But his point was clear. Nuclear is supported by both main
Westminster parties and fresh billions will be wasted in a bid to build new

Even though no British money has gone into building nuclear power
plants for decades. Even though Hinkley C nuclear power station is a decade
late, wildly over-budget and won’t come into service till 2027 – if the
British Government finds new investors to “ease out” Chinese
state-backed group CGN.

Even though Sizewell C, if it’s ever built,
won’t produce electricity until the 2030s. Even though the average
nuclear plant can take 18 years in planning and construction, against a
tenth of that time for renewables.

And even though the unthinkable has
happened again – Chernobyl is at risk of meltdown because of a power cut.
Despite all this, Westminster hails nuclear energy as the green salvation
of the world as it struggles to make up for decades without an energy
policy or a care for this country’s energy security.

It’s the same old story. Any threat to the status quo justifies more investment in the status

But does Scotland need new nuclear? No, we emphatically do not. The
Forth/Tay offshore wind project alone significantly exceeds Scotland’s
entire electricity demand and if some of that energy can be converted into
use for transport, it could satisfy nearly all of Scotland’s entire
energy needs. And supply England. Even when Scotland becomes independent,
we will continue to green England with renewable energy at the best price
they’ll get anywhere.

With tidal and wave energy, heat pumps, local
community grids and district heating for home energy also in the mix,
Scotland should be laughing all the way to the Green Bank. The German
Institute for Economic Research examined 674 nuclear power plants built
across the world since 1951 and found the average plant made a loss of
€4.8 billion. Naomi Oreskes is professor of the history of science at
Harvard University and wrote recently in Scientific American: “The most
recent US nuclear power reactors were started in 2013 and are still not

What about small modular reactors (SMRs)? Rolls Royce says
smaller reactors can be constructed more cheaply, built in a factory,
transported in modules and fitted together “like meccano”. Neither
Johnson nor Starmer championed plans – also announced yesterday – for a
new Severn Tidal Barrage. Local councils are working together to get
electricity from the second biggest tidal range in the world which, if
successfully harnessed, could generate 7% of the UK’s total energy needs.
And yet, this is the 15th attempt in the past 200 years. What’s the
problem? According to Councillor Huw Thomas, the leader of Cardiff City
Council: “The UK Government has so far not lent its support … due to a
perceived requirement for high levels of public investment and concerns
over the environmental impact … in the Severn Estuary.”

 The National 10th March 2022


March 12, 2022 - Posted by | politics, UK

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