Areva

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In today’s Independent newspaper (London, Monday 23 February) I argue that we may need to accept some new nuclear power stations. I put forward the view that the trench warfare between the pro-nuclear groups and those that support renewables means that progress towards ‘decarbonising’ electricity generation in the UK is too slow. We probably need to invest in many different types of non fossil-fuel generation as rapidly as we can if we are to meet the tough targets for UK emissions reduction so painfully won by groups such as Friends of the Earth. We no longer have the luxury of ruling out nuclear expansion.

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Copyright: Joe Gough – Fotolia.com.

The UK government’s enthusiasm for the construction of nuclear power stations is based on a May 2007 consultation document[1] published by the Department of Trade and Industry (now BERR). This paper argued that nuclear offered a financially viable way of generating electricity, broadly competitive with fossil fuels. It correctly pointed out that the cost of nuclear energy is largely determined by how much a plant costs to build, not by uranium prices or by the price of disposing of nuclear waste.

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The nuclear New Deal

I’ve just been lucky enough to see Gordon Brown’s notes for a speech he will give in a few weeks time at the Walter Mitty Institute. It may be worth sharing some of his thoughts.

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The new Finnish nuclear reactor at Olkiluoto (OLK3)
The new Finnish nuclear reactor at Olkiluoto (OLK3)

Nuclear power may or may not be an unfortunate necessity. But a look at Finland should temper any optimism about construction costs.

The government’s decision in early January 2007 to support (or, more precisely, not oppose) the construction of nuclear power plants in the UK prompted strongly felt responses from all sides. To the electricity generating industry, nuclear power represents an attractive way of reducing emissions. To most – but by no means all – environmentalists, the push for more nuclear power is both a mistake and a missed opportunity: a mistake because no country has yet shown that nuclear waste can be stored effectively, and a missed opportunity because nuclear baseload generation reduces the incentive to develop wind and tidal power.

This article looks at what we can learn from the building of the nuclear power station at Olkiluoto (OLK3) on the western coast of Finland. The ground works started here in early 2004 and the plant is now due to open in 2011. Does this project give us confidence that nuclear power stations can be constructed at a reasonable cost and to a reliable timescale?

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