Government spin doctors and the nuclear industry have been working overtime to repackage nuclear power as a green solution to climate change. They want to build new nuclear power stations, but they know we won’t want them if we know the reality – nuclear power is dirty and dangerous and not the answer to climate change.
Even if we doubled the amount of nuclear power in the UK there would only be an 8% reduction in greenhouse gases. Nuclear power is neither carbon emission free nor would new power stations come on stream for at least ten years.
The use of nuclear power threatens the environment and people’s health. No safe solution has yet been devised to store its carcinogenic toxic radioactive waste, some of which is dangerous for thousands of years. It also leaves us vulnerable to the possibility of nuclear accidents or even terrorist attack.
Embarking on the creation of a new generation of nuclear plants also sends the wrong message internationally, where building a nuclear reactor is a necessary step in the creation of a nuclear weapon. If we want any credibility in discouraging the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we cannot discourage others from building reactors whilst we construct many more of our own. An energy mix of renewable energy sources, cleaned up fossil fuels and energy efficiency measures – all of which are safe, effective and proven technologies – is available now.
- Climate change is happening now. A new nuclear power station will take at least 10 years to build and longer to generate electricity. Wind farms can be up and running in less than a year.
- It’s expensive. The nuclear industry is massively subsidised by the British public. Sizewell B, the UK’s most recent power station cost the taxpayer around £3.7billion just to install Decommissioning and cleaning up all of our current nuclear sites is costing more than £70 billion.
- It’s not sustainable. The reserves of uranium ores used to generate nuclear power are going to run out. There is only 50 years worth of high uranium ores left in the world. There may be only 200 years left of all uranium ores including poor uranium ores which take more energy to mine and process and thus release more carbon emissions.
- Uranium mining kills. Uranium mining is the first step in the nuclear power cycle; it has taken the lives of many miners all over the world causing environmental contamination, cancers and nuclear waste.
- Nuclear accidents. The risk of terrible nuclear accidents like Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Windscale (Sellafield) will plague a new generation of power stations as it did the first. Read more about these accidents.
- A terrorist target. Nuclear power carries with it the risk of nuclear terrorism. In this age of uncertainty, dirty bombs and attacks on power stations are a terrifying threat.
- The proliferation of nuclear weapons is inextricably linked to nuclear power by a shared need for enriched uranium, and through the generation of plutonium as a by-product of spent nuclear fuel. The two industries have been linked since the very beginning and a nuclear weapons free world requires a non-nuclear energy policy.
We need a safe, genuinely sustainable, global and green solution to our energy needs. A combination of renewable energy sources and energy efficiency measures which are safe, effective and proven technologies are available now. The government must live up to its Kyoto agreements and invest in sustainable clean solutions to climate change.