Stop Hinkley Press release:

Nuclear decision would stifle local green energy

An academic from Warwick University slated the Government for missing an opportunity to switch the national grid system to one which favours localised and small-scale electricity production.

Bridget Woodman, a Research Fellow specialising in Energy Policy, spoke out at a public meeting in Watchet on Monday evening, saying the second energy review in four years was a distraction from the previous aim to build up renewable and home-produced energy. Building more big nuclear plants would scupper this opportunity for forty years, she claimed.

Ms Woodman, formerly a Greenpeace campaigner, outlined the vision of the 2003 Energy Review which was to make 'real progress' towards a 60 percent cut in greenhouse emissions by 2050. This would require technical changes in the national grid which would allow renewable forms of energy to perform more effectively and with less wastage through long transmission lines, which is a feature of the existing centralised system.

A 'decentralised' grid system, already in place in countries such as Denmark and USA, would also allow home-produced electricity from roof-mounted wind-turbines and solar panels to be sold back to the grid when not needed. The Tory leader was cited as a supporter of this approach, having built a wind-turbine providing electricity at his home.

She said the Government had not pushed hard enough on green energy and will only achieve a 10 percent reduction in CO2 levels by 2020, instead of its 20 percent target. She felt the Government was grasping at nuclear power and carbon sequestration from big coal plants as it perceived it had to do something in response to its climate-emissions failure and concerns over energy security. Had it invested more in gas storage to reduce fluctuations in energy costs to consumers, it would not have needed to consider the panic measure of considering more nuclear power.

The audience of about fifty was told that the UK is a 'world leader' in wave and tidal technologies, which if allowed to mature through these network investments, could turn into an export industry. Combined Heat and Power units were also given as an example of a rising technology which produces heat and electricity from a gas-boiler in the home, neighbourhood or factory at much greater efficiency than gas-generated electricity from a plant many miles away.

The talk was given on the same day that the Sustainable Development Commission announced that nuclear power had more disadvantages than advantages as a solution to climate change. The commission, which reports directly to Tony Blair, said that carbon savings of only eight percent could be achieved from doubling the UK's nuclear capacity by 2035 and nothing by 2010. The report also echoes Ms Woodman's view that renewable energy would be stifled.

The meeting was organised by two local environmental groups, Forum 21 and Stop Hinkley. Jim Duffy from Stop Hinkley said: "Now's our last chance for decades to green up our electricity system. I urge West Somerset residents to write to the DTI asking for the clean, safe option."

Readers can write to the Energy Review at:

Energy Review Team
1, Victoria St
London SW1H 0ET

Jim Duffy, Stop Hinkley, 01984 632109


Nuclear power is not the answer to tackling climate change or security of supply, according to the Sustainable Development Commission

In response to the Government's current Energy Review, the SDC nuclear report draws together the most comprehensive evidence base available, to find that there is no justification for bringing forward a new nuclear power programme at present

Based on eight new research papers, the SDC report gives a balanced examination of the pros and cons of nuclear power. Its research recognizes that nuclear is a low carbon technology, with an impressive safety record in the UK. Nuclear could generate large quantities of electricity, contribute to stabilising CO2 emissions and add to the diversity of the UK's energy supply.

However, the research establishes that even if the UK's existing nuclear capacity was doubled, it would only give an 8% cut on CO2 emissions by 2035 (and nothing before 2010). This must be set against the risks.

The report identifies five major disadvantages to nuclear power:

  1. Long-term waste - no long term solutions are yet available, let alone acceptable to the general public; it is impossible to guarantee safety over the long-term disposal of waste.
  2. Cost - the economics of nuclear new-build are highly uncertain. There is little, if any, justification for public subsidy, but if estimated costs escalate, there's a clear risk that the taxpayer will be have to pick up the tab.
  3. Inflexibility - nuclear would lock the UK into a centralised distribution system for the next 50 years, at exactly the time when opportunities for microgeneration and local distribution network are stronger than ever
  4. Undermining energy efficiency - a new nuclear programme would give out the wrong signal to consumers and businesses, implying that a major technological fix is all that's required, weakening the urgent action needed on energy efficiency.
  5. International security - if the UK brings forward a new nuclear power programme, we cannot deny other countries the same technology. With lower safety standards, they run higher risks of accidents, radiation exposure, proliferation and terrorist attacks.

On balance, the SDC finds that these problems outweigh the advantages of nuclear. However, the SDC does not rule out further research into new nuclear technologies and pursuing answers to the waste problem, as future technological developments may justify a re-examination of the issue.


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