Will our future be green or nuclear?

Building new nuclear power stations is “back on the agenda with a vengeance”, the Prime Minister warned this week. In a speech to the Confederation of British Industry, Tony Blair revealed he had seen the first draft of the government's energy review - and concluded it would be a “dereliction of duty” not to consider the nuclear option, alongside greener former of energy.

Building new nuclear power stations is “back on the agenda with a vengeance”, the Prime Minister warned this week.

In a speech to the Confederation of British Industry, Tony Blair revealed he had seen the first draft of the government's energy review - and concluded

it would be a “dereliction of duty” not to consider the nuclear option, alongside greener forms of energy.

Mr Blair's speech raises fresh questions about the future of the Sizewell B plant in Suffolk - and where nuclear waste will be dumped in future.


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As the EDP revealed in April, the national committee which has been looking at the best way to dispose of waste had concluded that burying high-grade waste in deep vaults under ground would be the best option in the long-term.

Where those deep vaults would be built remains unclear - although there were plans in the past to bury waste at the old army battle area near Thetford.

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Today, the EDP asked the Green Party's Rupert Read and Mark Gorry, the director of Sizewell B, to set out the case for and against a nuclear-powered future.

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FOR NUCLEAR POWER

t MARK GORRY, station director, Sizewell B power station, Suffolk.

The case for new nuclear to be part of a balanced energy policy that addresses the future of security of supply and the issue of climate change is strong.

Sizewell B alone has produced over 90 terra-watt hours of electricity in eleven years of operation.

This equates to a saving of 60 million tonnes of CO2 from going into the atmosphere - a significant contribution towards climate change targets.

The station provides enough electricity for the daily domestic needs of two million people and is important in helping the UK meet the growing demands for electricity.

At Sizewell B we are a big part of our community, employing nearly 700 full-time staff resulting in some £30m being spent in the region. Maintaining this existing skills base will be a major boost for the engineering and construction industry in the UK.

We have excellent engagement with our neighbours through a site stakeholder group, local residents and major organisations such as the East of England Energy Group, of which British Energy is a member.

Internationally, the recent stand-off between Russia and Ukraine over gas supplies starkly illustrates the potential vulnerability to supply interruptions world-wide.

Long-term over-dependence on gas imports could have huge repercussions. Dire predictions, including those of Professor James Lovelock, about the impact of global warming has politicians and commentators of all persuasions broadly agreeing that we need to switch to low-carbon energy sources before it is too late.

For low carbon, read nuclear, renewables and energy efficiency.

Many claim that nuclear isn't really low carbon due to the uranium mining process and subsequent construction, but a recent life-cycle survey based on Torness nuclear power station in Scotland suggests otherwise.

The survey found that nuclear produced 5grams/kilo-watt hour of carbon compared to 900g/KWh for a typical coal-fired power station, and 400g/KWh for a modern gas power station.

There have also been many studies showing that nuclear can be cost competitive and that new nuclear build would not need a subsidy to be economic.

As an industry we must continue to demonstrate world-class safety standards, and deal effectively with decommissioning and long-term waste.

There are no technical barriers to achieving either of these safely and effectively, as other countries across the world demonstrate.

British Energy welcomes the fact that the government is seriously looking at the nuclear option, alongside all energy options.

It has given the nuclear industry the chance to highlight the positives about nuclear generation within an informed and open debate. The nuclear industry is not asking for special favours, or arguing against other technologies, far from it.

We support renewables, clean coal, gas, and energy efficiency initiatives.

But without nuclear the UK will become over dependent on imports and struggle to meet its climate change targets.

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AGAINST NUCLEAR POWER

t RUPERT READ, UEA academic and Green Party councillor, Norwich.

On September 10, 2005, the BBC broke the news that armed police are to patrol Suffolk's Sizewell nuclear power station.

Sizewell B's director, Mark Gorry, stated they would be there to “deter” nuclear terrorists.

It is interesting to contemplate how effective the presence of such armed police would be against the kind of attack that hit New York on September 11, 2001.

Perhaps the police would try to fire their guns at a hijacked jet air-liner, in the last instants before impact and a nuclear explosion that would kill millions and fatally contaminate the whole of East Anglia for 500,000 years to come?

A very good way of appraising how sensible - or otherwise - Mr. Blair's energy policy is is to ask what kind of energy policy Osama bin Laden would like us to adopt?

If a terrorist is dreaming up a target, which would he find most attractive: solar panels on terraced houses? Shops selling low-energy lightbulbs?

Or a nuclear power station - an effective attack upon which would dwarf the scale of all previous terrorist attacks combined?

To ask such questions is already to answer them. It would be completely insane to do as British Nuclear Fuels and Tony Blair want us to.

Now, in trying to justify such astoundingly irresponsible policy-decisions, the nuclear apologists will no doubt peddle the myth that nuclear is a renewable, carbon-free source of energy. It isn't.

Uranium is limited in supply and is going to get ever more difficult and expensive to mine. It may well run out before oil.

Moreover, the production of nuclear power necessitates huge fossil-fuel emissions.

Think how much energy is needed to operate uranium mines, to transport the uranium to Britain - and to monitor nuclear waste for untold millennia.

As the EDP revealed on April 22, the government is planning to bury nuclear waste underground in East Anglia.

But burying nuclear waste is about as sensible as an ostrich burying its head in the sand to escape its pursuers.

Nuclear waste remains radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.

If you bury the waste, some will eventually enter the ground-water, and poison our children's children.

The only decent solution is to keep waste above ground - and away from centres of population - where it can be monitored, and kept safe - albeit at great expense - for the next several hundred thousand years.

Nuclear waste should be kept at places that have already been contaminated: such as old nuclear plants.

And no new nuclear waste should ever again be created.

The Green Party supports developing small-scale renewable energy systems, thus providing lots of good, local jobs.

Let's dump the nuclear dinosaurs, and instead go for a real solution - for all our children's sakes.

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