There has been a lot of talk about nuclear energy in the news lately, with a great debate about whether or not it’s the right thing to do. At Good Energy we don’t believe that nuclear is the right choice for the future when it comes to the UK’s fuel mix. Here are 8 reasons why nuclear energy is the wrong decision:
#1 Nuclear is a bad match for renewables.
We believe that renewables should be the UK’s major source of electricity generation. They have huge advantages over other technologies and are well suited to the UK’s geography.
But renewables work best when twinned with flexible technologies that can pick up the strain at key times, such as cold, still nights. Nuclear power stations are highly inflexible (very difficult to turn up or down) and so are a poor match for a grid that has lots of renewables.
#2 Building nuclear power stations is very expensive.
New nuclear power is more expensive than onshore wind and large-scale solar and comparable in cost to offshore wind. And whilst these renewable technologies are getting cheaper all the time, nuclear is getting more expensive.
#3 There are huge costs beyond simply constructing the power stations.
Unlike renewable technologies, decommissioning a nuclear plant and disposing of nuclear waste is complex, hazardous, and expensive. The latest estimate from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is that cleaning up after the UK’s nuclear industry will cost £116 billion over the next 120 years or so, and the NDA says that figure could well double.
#4 Nuclear power stations take at least a decade to build.
The approval and construction of a nuclear power stations takes in the region of 10 to 20 years when things go to plan – and, because they are so complex, projects often suffer lengthy delays. Other technologies can be built much faster. Decarbonising our electricity system quickly is critical to the UK meeting its commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions – and the longer we delay in taking the action needed, the more it will cost us in the long run.
#5 Nuclear offers the UK no opportunities for global trade.
Whilst the UK helped pioneer nuclear technology back in the 1940s and 1950s, we no longer retain the expertise to build and operate nuclear power stations ourselves and are dependent on foreign companies to do so. In contrast, the UK is at the cutting edge of renewables and could become a recognised global leader in the sector, exporting our technology and expertise to other countries around the world.
#6 Nuclear power makes us reliant on a small number of sites.
All power stations sometimes experience unforeseen outages. Because nuclear power stations generate such a huge amount of electricity, when a nuclear power station goes offline it puts huge pressure on the grid.
Even worse, nuclear power stations are often built using the same design and a problem identified at one could require all similar stations to be shut down for safety. In other words, nuclear puts too many eggs in one basket.
#7 Nuclear benefits the few, not the many.
The level of expertise and capital required to build a nuclear power station means very few are capable of it. For this handful of big companies, building and operating a new nuclear power station further tightens the grip they already have on the energy market. In contrast, renewables open up the electricity market, allowing a broader range of companies, communities and individuals to have a stake in the future of electricity generation of the UK.
#8 Nuclear raises concerns about safety and security.
Whilst thankfully nuclear accidents are rare, a nuclear-free energy system would mean no risk of another Fukushima, Chernobyl or Three Mile Island, nor any of the question marks about national security that come with nuclear power.