Energy policy in tatters as two more companies scrap plans for new nuclear

Posted by Richardg - 29 March 2012 at 12:16pm - Comments
RWE Nuclear powerstation
All rights reserved. Credit: Paul Langrock / Zenit / Greenpeace

This week two more energy companies abandoned their plans to build new nuclear power stations in the UK. It’s left the government’s energy strategy in tatters – and it’s time for them to admit that the future is not nuclear and start investing in cleaner, safer renewable energy.

Today’s announcement by RWE and E.ON isn’t really a surprise. People working in the energy sector have been saying privately for months that it was just a matter of time before they pulled out, because the economics of nuclear didn’t stack up without billions of pounds of subsidy.

Building nuclear reactors requires lots of money up front and has a very long payback time, which isn’t a very attractive prospect for investors – as E.ON and RWE admitted this morning.

The government is determined to pretend that it’s business as usual, which isn’t a surprise. They’ve been too close to the nuclear industry for years. When the energy companies and private investors said they were reluctant to build nuclear, the government response was to push the risk onto bill payers – saddling millions of people with the risks of massive delays and inevitable overspend.

This simply isn’t good enough. There are better, faster and cheaper ways to save us from climate change. It takes too long to build new reactors. Even if new companies stepped in to replace RWE and EON, it would be years before they got any project of the ground. Gas, despite the best efforts of a very vocal lobby, isn't going to help either.

The only solution is to start investing in a wide range of sustainable energy options that are much faster to build at scale. They also need to start taking energy efficiency seriously.

Last October, research by WWF showed that renewable energy was the key to cutting CO2 emissions from the power sector. They calculate that renewables could provide 60% of our electricity by 2030. Not only would that be cheaper and less risky than nuclear power, but it has the potential to get our flat-lining economy off life support.

But the only way that this will happen is if the government wakes up to the fact that its nuclear dream is crumbling.

This morning two more energy companies abandoned their plans to build new nuclear power stations in the UK. It’s left the government’s energy strategy in tatters – and it’s time for them to admit defeat and start investing in cleaner, safer renewable energy.

 

Today’s announcement by RWE and E.ON isn’t really a surprise. People working in the energy sector have been saying privately for months that it was just a matter of time before they pulled out, because the economics of nuclear didn’t stack up.

 

Building nuclear reactors requires lots of money up front and has a very long payback time, which isn’t a very attractive prospect for investors – as E.ON admitted this morning. <link to EON PR>

 

The government is determined to pretend that it’s business as usual, which isn’t a surprise. They’ve been too close to the nuclear industry for years. When the energy companies and private investors said they were reluctant to build nuclear, the government response was to push the cost onto household bills – saddling millions of people with the risks of massive delays and inevitable overspend.

 

This simply isn’t good enough, because nuclear power isn’t going to save us from climate change. Neither is gas, despite the best efforts of a very vocal lobby. The only solution is to start investing in a wide range of sustainable energy options, including wind, solar and wave power – and to start taking energy efficiency seriously.

 

Last October, WWF published a new report that found that renewable energy was the key to cutting CO2 emissions from the power sector. They calculate that renewables could provide 60% of our electricity by 2030. Not only would that be cheaper and less risky than nuclear power, but it has the potential to give out flat-lining economy some much needed CPR.

 

But the only way that this will happen is if the government wakes up to the fact that its nuclear dream has become a nightmare.

I was wondering what greenpeaces stance is on Thorium nuclear energy, a energy source that aside from being incredibly economical and low in pollution, but can also use old nuclear waste ( which is stored for many years in Swimming pool size contained) as fuel during it's reaction. Instead of generalising nuclear energy as dangerous and backing energy sources such as wind, which if honest are hardly viable as a energy source fo the UK, why not look into this technology that was never backed as it couldn't be weaponized by governments and use the weight of your organizastion to push something that could actually change pollution and energy consumption.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQ9Ll5EX1jc

Pity. The chance of rolling blackouts as inappropriate and ineffective solar and wind turbines grind to a halt will only increase as the generation capacity of nuclear declines. Then again, considering renewabullshit sources and seething in the dark because there's no electricity both fulfils energy efficiency drives I doubt you're too bothered.

It would be nice to think that lunatic Greenpeace along with WWF and FotE would face a trial for their culpability in the chaos and tragedy that will ensue but considering they have most Western governments in their back pocket, they probably won't.

Speaking of seething in the dark, have fun for Earf Oar tomorrow!

I would also like to know GP's response to Ian's question above.

Thanks for your question Ian. A lot is being said about different types of reactors, fast breeders, liquid flouride thorium reactors (LFTR), fusion reactors etc But no one has been able to build one on a commercial scale, even if they could it would be decades before a commercially viable reactor could come online, certainly not in time to plug the energy gap facing the UK over the next few years. The UK, France, Japan and USA have all tried, and failed, to build fast breeders and the Chinese government are attempting to build a LFTR reactor but say it will be decades before it will start generating electricity.

Ultimately, there is only so much money available for researching new technologies. We have to choose whether to spend billions trying to build working fusion, thorium or fast-breeder reactors – which have a track record of being costly failures – or invest our money making already proven renewable technologies cheaper and more efficient and combining them with energy efficiency to reduce overall demand for energy.

Hi Richardg,

It's not at all true that thorium has not been exploited on a commercial scale, as the USSR had several thorium breeder reactors delivering hundreds of megawatts to the grid from the 60s right into the 80s.  The main reason it wasn't exploited more widely was that regular uranium enrichment and uranium breeder reactors are both more readily applicable to nuclear weapons.  Opportunity cost killed thorium dead several times, just as it has held back renewable energy technologies.  They are in the same boat.

Ultimately, breeder reactors are required for retiring the nuclear waste built up in regular reactors over the past 60 years of nuclear technology; they may as well be providing carbon-free power as well. 

 It's great news that Nuclear power has such a set back...Could you possibly consider adding Nuclear to your list of "Issues we work on" Like the Greenpeace International home page does? You have to key in "nuclear" to find out about any activity in the u.k..

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