Need for nuclear in UK has never been stronger says David King

Despite the events in Fukushima in Japan, the case for a new nuclear programme in the UK has never been stronger. And Britain could realise a £10bn economic opportunity through […]

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By Kelvin Ross

Despite the events in Fukushima in Japan, the case for a new nuclear programme in the UK has never been stronger.

And Britain could realise a £10bn economic opportunity through adopting a new approach to nuclear that would tackle concerns over security of supply, rising oil prices and safety issues.

That’s the conclusion of a report published today by the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, run by the government’s former chief scientist Sir David King.

The report explores possible future scenarios to accelerate the delivery of a safe, holistic and long-term strategy for current and future nuclear material and spent fuel management.

It assesses likely costs, risks, safety and potential returns to the UK taxpayer and the wider economy, and looks at options for existing and new facilities at Sellafield.

Prof King said: “Currently the UK has a window of opportunity to deal with its nuclear material and spent fuel management and to maximise the value of its existing assets.

“The renaissance in new nuclear build creates an advantageous way of using these legacy materials as fuel for new nuclear power plants. Despite the terrible events in Japan, the economic, safety and carbon case for a new build programme in the UK has never been stronger.”

He said the report “evaluates scenarios that would reduce cost to the taxpayer and create billions of pounds of economic opportunity through new skills and jobs, as well as reducing carbon emissions and increasing energy security and safety”.

“The potential benefits of examining nuclear materials and spent fuel stocks as a potential asset and managing these alongside new build reactors, through an all encompassing UK nuclear power policy, are clarified through this investigation.”

The report concludes that the “do nothing” option will lead to the worst outcome for the taxpayer and for the UK’s future security.

CBI deputy director-general Neil Bentley today said: “The terrible events in Japan are a horrific reminder of why safety has to be the number one concern when it comes to nuclear energy.

“At the same time, nuclear has to remain a solution to fulfilling our objectives to secure a future low carbon, affordable energy mix for the UK. The UK’s nuclear legacy must be addressed in a safe, cost-effective manner and this report is an important step towards new nuclear being an even more secure low-carbon source of energy, in a world of rising uranium prices.”

But Greenpeace’s chief scientist Doug Parr poured cold water on the report. “Previous governments’ failed experiments at Sellafield mean that producing this sort of highly radioactive fuel has already cost the British taxpayer billions.

“By reprocessing nuclear waste and turning it into fuel, you create even more nuclear waste than you would otherwise have to deal with anyway. Reprocessing would also lead to increased multi-billion pound taxpayer handouts to the nuclear industry, and that’s before you consider what it would mean for our ability to constrain nuclear weapons proliferation around the world.”