Fukushima must not derail UK nuclear plans, say engineers

“Kneejerk” anti-nuclear reactions to the explosions at Japan’s Fukushima power plants are putting global long-term energy security at risk. That’s the claim of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which today […]

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By Kelvin Ross

“Kneejerk” anti-nuclear reactions to the explosions at Japan’s Fukushima power plants are putting global long-term energy security at risk.

That’s the claim of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which today called for calm and urged the UK to stand firm in its plans for a new breed of nuclear power.

As Germany and Switzerland yesterday suspended decisions on future nuclear power, Stephen Tetlow, chief executive of the IME, said: “The humanitarian tragedy currently unfolding in Japan is deeply shocking and our thoughts go out to all affected. However we are beginning to see kneejerk reactions against nuclear power in this country and across Europe which could prove to be profoundly damaging to our long-term energy security.”

Mr Tetlow added: “The fact is that without nuclear power we face a very real possibility of the UK’s lights turning off in a decade’s time. We shouldn’t be complacent – we need to learn from what is happening now in Japan – however to make any long-term decisions before we know the facts would be reckless.”

Mr Tetlow’s views echo those of Utilyx energy risk expert Andrew Horstead, who yesterday said: “The crisis in Japan will also strengthen anti-nuclear sentiment here at a time when the UK is looking at a wave of nuclear new builds over the coming two decades to meet the UK’s low carbon generation targets.”

Mr Horstead stressed that it was too early to understand both the full short- and long-term implications on energy demand following Fukushima, but he added “the market is certainly spooked”.

And he highlighted the impact of the Japanese crisis on global commodity prices. “Japan is the world’s largest importer of LNG, accounting for around 40% of global demand, and the potential for a sustained increased LNG demand for Japan’s power generation could divert supply away from the UK lifting prices.This will drive UK power prices up given the dominance of gas in the UK generation mix.”

He added that South Korea, Indonesia, Qatar and Russia have all said that they will step up deliveries to Japan, “which would take some of the heat out of the European market”.

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