This is a guest article from veteran sustainability campaigner and writer Jonathon Porritt.
I’ve been ‘anti-nuclear’ since 1974, and my basic position hasn’t changed much during that time. Not because I decided back then that nuclear power was an inherently ‘wicked’ technology that must be avoided at all costs. I’ve simply concluded that it’s the wrong technology at the wrong time for sorting out all the challenges that we face. I can genuinely claim that I’ve been waiting more than 45 years for someone to prove me wrong.
In April, I published a new report: Net Zero Without Nuclear, which summarises the nuclear industry’s continuing inability to overcome its longstanding problems (on costs, construction delays, nuclear waste, security issues, proliferation and so on), and challenges the idea that we’re going to need new nuclear power to get us to a Net Zero economy by 2050.
Nuclear power and the challenge of climate change
The journey to Net Zero carbon emissions that we’re now starting out on (at long last!) is by far the most daunting challenge that humankind has ever faced. And we already know that the kind of radical decarbonisation on which our future depends is going to be incredibly hard.
Given the scale of the challenge we face, we need to have very strong grounds for keeping nuclear out of today’s low/zero-carbon portfolio. Not least as nuclear power, historically, has already made a huge contribution to low-carbon generation. Since the early 1960s, nuclear power has provided the equivalent of 18,000 reactor years of electricity generation. We’d be in a much worse place today if all that electricity had been generated from burning coal or gas.