Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Nuclear Power, Energy Supply & Climate Change

I usually put my more strident rants on my Bile blog - but I think this one - triggered by the Energy White Paper published yesterday - needs to be here...

Of course, slowing climate change is about reducing carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gas) emissions, not purely about changing energy sources.
We could reduce CO2 emissions by
  • reducing road traffic levels and aircraft use,
  • building more energy efficient housing
  • and by using energy more efficiently in industry.

And that's all before even thinking about social changes towards a lower energy lifestyle (see Transition Towns). Even when you consider electricity generation, the technology exists for lower powered computers, fluorescent lighting etc, not to mention uses (like heating) where electricity is simply inefficient.

So – when a Government is prepared to spend just £18M a year in energy conservation grants but several billion pounds on replacing nuclear weapons (which are contingency against a less certain threat than climate change) and several hundred billion pounds maintaining a military operation (partly) to safeguard oil supplies – you have to wonder at its priorities.

What I'm getting at is the suggestion that we need nuclear power to counter the threat of climate change is cr*p - I won't get into the arguments about nuclear waste, the threat of accident, the threat of terrorism, the impossibility of insuring nuclear power stations or even the fact that uranium extraction from its ore generates significant levels of CO2 - let's just say there are other alternatives in the timescale we've got.

As to security of supply – sources of high-grade uranium ore (eg West Africa, Siberia) are not exactly politically stable, any more than sources of oil and gas.
And current nuclear power stations are designed to produce weapons-grade nuclear fuel by reprocessing. That’s one of the reasons why the Americans doubt the Iranian civil nuclear programme so much. Development of entirely ‘civil’ nuclear power stations will take much longer than the 20 year window we’re told we have.

Of course if photovoltaics, wave or tidal power could have been used to create weapons of mass destruction, they’d have been fully developed by now.

And I guess it is coincidence that the Government have published planning reform for major infrastructure projects and a strategy identifying the need for new nuclear power stations across the country.

No comments: