Nuclear power is critical to Britain's future
Renewable power will not stop global warming or blackouts
Britain must build a new
generation of nuclear power stations to prevent blackouts
and fight global warming.
Sir Alec Broers, the president of the Royal Academy of
Engineering, said that government plans to generate 20
per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020
were unrealistic and investment in nuclear power was
critical if shortages were to be avoided.
All but one of the nuclear plants that now generate
almost a quarter of Britain’s electricity are due to
close in the next two decades, and ministers have refused
to make a commitment to building replacements.
The recent Energy White Paper instead set ambitious
targets for renewable power, such as wind and tidal
energy, and plans to meet remaining electricity needs
from fossil fuels.
This policy made overoptimistic assumptions about the
potential and cost of renewables, and would do little to
cut emissions of greenhouse gases, Sir Alec said.
While the Government was right to invest in wind power,
it would be a huge and misguided gamble to ignore nuclear
power as an important element of the energy mix.
Sir Alec’s fears, which he voiced in an interview with
The Times, add to growing concern about the security of
Britain’s energy supply, an issue that has risen
sharply on the political agenda after the blackout that
struck the United States and Canada last week.
Energy experts said on Friday that similar power cuts
could happen here as soon as next winter, and Brian
Wilson, a former Energy Minister, said that electricity
prices would have to rise to improve capacity.
Reports from the Royal Academy of Engineers and the
Institution of Civil Engineers have told ministers that
they will have to approve new nuclear power stations to
guarantee future supplies.
Sir David King, the Government’s Chief Scientific
Adviser, has made the same recommendation.
Roger Higman, of Friends of the Earth, disputed the need
for new nuclear power stations, however, saying that
there were better ways of reducing greenhouse emissions.
“Nuclear power is expensive, dirty and unreliable,”
he said. “Last week France was desperately trying to
hose down its nuclear plants to keep them operational in
the heatwave, and the closure for safety reasons of ten
nuclear plants in the US was instrumental in the crash of
their electricity system.
“The problem with listening to engineers on this issue
is that they see one part of the problem, but not the
broader environmental issues that are at stake.”
Sir Alec, also the outgoing Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge
University, said that ministers needed to ignore “emotion
and exaggeration” about the dangers of nuclear power.
The Government was wrong to see nuclear and renewable
energy as mutually exclusive “either/or” options, and
would do best to invest in both, at least until nuclear
fusion became a practical option, he said.
“I think we need both,” he said. “We need to keep
working on fusion, and the engineering problems of this
still remain extreme. But until we get to fusion, nuclear
is the best we’ve got. There are no fundamental supply
problems. Nuclear remains very important to our energy
needs. I support entirely a very serious continuation of
study of nuclear power.”
The Energy White Paper, he said, had been too generous to
the potential role that renewables can play. “The view
of wind power is over-optimistic — that we can get to
20 per cent renewable energy by 2020 and that it will be
as straightforward as that. Some forms may be far more
expensive than we think they are.
“All of these energy sources should carry the costs of
their overheads with them. If you have wind power, you
have to have back-up from gas generation, for when there
is not enough wind, and the cost of those plants has to
be added to the cost of wind power.
“We can’t just put up wind turbines and generate a
lot of electricity for free. We will need to redesign the
grid, set up reserves for when the wind isn’t blowing
strongly enough, learn how to store power.”
A positive decision in favour of nuclear power was needed
urgently, because without it there was a real risk that
Britain would lose the engineering and technology base
required to build new plants.
“We had a lot of expertise in nuclear power, and that
is something we’ve got to look at,” Sir Alec said.
“If and when the decision comes, we have to be sure we
are not without the people and the skills to do that. We’ve
got to have a good understanding of the problem, and the
decision musn’t be one that’s based on emotion and
“The alternatives are very damaging. We just cannot go
on producing excessive amounts of carbon dioxide and
burning fossil fuels.
“There are areas, and energy is surely one of them,
where the Government has a role to bring things together.
It isn’t really picking winners; it’s building a
fundamental base of technology.”
Britain now has a diversity of energy sources, with gas
stations contributing 38 per cent of electricity, coal-fired
stations 32 per cent, nuclear 23 per cent, oil 4 per cent
and renewables 3 per cent.
The Government aims to increase the proportion generated
from renewables to 10 per cent by 2010 and to 20 per cent
by 2020, as part of the country’s strategy to cut
greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Kyoto treaty.
By 2020, however, all but one of the present generation
of nuclear power stations will have been decommissioned.
If these are not replaced, and assuming that the
renewables target is met, Britain will effectively stand
still in greenhouse gas emissions.
A decision to build nuclear plants as well could
potentially see up to 40 per cent of Britain’s
electricity generated from carbon-neutral sources.
Zdroj: The Times
zpìt na úvodní