Nuclear Power, in the wake of the Japanese Tsunami

It is still uncertain what will happen to the Japanese nuclear power stations damaged by the recent tsunami. There is anxiety at the possibility of a core meltdown. At the time of writing this seems unlikely, though there has been radioactive material released to the atmosphere, and local populations have been moved away.

Energy policy makers are watching the crisis with unease. Nuclear power stations are in the pipeline or will be ordered soon in several parts of the world, and will form an essential part of our energy supplies over the next two generations.

There will even be 'new nuclear' in Britain. After prolonged dithering by the previous UK government, Britain has eventually decided to proceed with a new generation of nuclear power stations, to replace those reaching the end of their lives and which will be switched off over the next eight years.

It is important that the calamity in Japan should not affect the British nuclear power programme.

Even with a revived nuclear programme, the UK faces energy shortages. It is also vulnerable to the volatility of foreign supplies of oil and gas. David Cameron has pointed out:

  • the reactors planned for Britain are different to those in Japan.
  • the UK is not in a seismically active region.

    The three principal options for our power supply are:


  • COAL stations are now subject to strict rules on emissions.
  • Half of our GAS is imported.
  • NUCLEAR is therefore essential unless we are to return to a non-industrial economy.

    Our unsuccessful wind turbine programme provides very little energy.

    Activists in the green movement have already used the Japanese tsunami to make disparaging comments about the safety of nuclear power.

    Unelected pressure groups, no matter how well-meaning, must must not be allowed to prevent or slow down the building of the new power stations which we need so badly.

    Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, has shifted goverment policy towards a better energy balance with a prominent role for nuclear. This is what the country needs.

    N.D., 16 Mar 11

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