UK Business Secretary John Hutton has announced plans for a new generation of nuclear power stations to be built across Britain.
He made his announcement to British MPs yesterday, ending the speculation over the Labour government’s new energy plans. The new plants were a major victory for the nuclear lobby, which has been pushing hard for the government to build new plants before many of the old ones are closed in 2023. Nuclear power currently accounts for around 18% of the electricity produced in the UK.
The British government is following the lead of countries such as France and Finland in building new nuclear sites, which in the face of record high fossil fuel prices have become more attractive to some. Even in the US, which has not seen new nuclear power stations built for decades, companies are applying to build new plants.
But there is very vocal opposition to the UK government’s plans. Greenpeace in particular has launched an active campaign against the new sites.
Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: “There is a lie at the heart of the government’s coming announcement on nuclear power. Ministers’ own research found that even 10 new reactors would only cut the UK’s carbon emissions by about 4% some time after 2025, and the so-called energy gap will open before new nuclear power stations can be built.”
“Going for nuclear allows politicians like Gordon Brown to project the impression that they are taking difficult decisions to solve difficult problems when they are doing nothing of the sort. We need energy efficiency, cleaner use of fossil fuels, renewables and state-of-the-art decentralised power stations like they have in Scandinavia.”
Greenpeace released a briefing yesterday outlining its opposition to the program in detail.
There is also political opposition to the plan, which some see as a flip-flop as Labour had called nuclear power “an unattractive option” in 2003.
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: “The government must be honest about how much it will cost to build and run new nuclear power stations and who is going to pick up the bill. The government should abandon these expensive white elephants and focus on increasing energy efficiency and the use of genuinely renewable technologies.”