New nuclear power plants – no, thank you!

The report of a commission set up by the british government sees no justification at present for a new nuclear energy program

The uk government would like to build more and new types of nuclear power plants to secure energy supplies, reduce oil dependency and provide more clean energy. The arguments are the same for all supporters of nuclear energy, whether in the u.S., where president bush also wants to build more nuclear power plants, or in germany (mock battles with arguments from the day before yesterday). The sustainable development commission (sdc) has now ied a comprehensive report sharply criticizing the plans.

The vision just a few years ago was for the uk to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 60 percent by 2050 and to meet 10 percent of its energy needs through renewables by 2010. However, with the rise in oil and gas prices and the decline of oil fields in the north sea, there have been calls for new nuclear power plants to secure energy supplies, provide price stability and reduce carbon dioxide pollution. As in germany, the old nuclear power plants, which until now have produced 20 percent of total electricity, will be gradually shut down by 2035.

As far as climate protection is concerned, according to the sdc, there is no panacea. If the amount of energy produced by nuclear power plants was doubled, the carbon dioxide emissions would remain unchanged before 2010 and would decrease by 8 percent by 2035. Sdc proposes a mix of measures that are less risky than nuclear energy, namely energy efficiency, development of renewable energy and better technologies to prevent the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

For the commission, the disadvantages or risks of nuclear technology outweigh its advantages, at least at the current state of the art. Five reasons are given against the resumption of nuclear technology, which are of course valid beyond great britain:

  1. The long-term storage of nuclear waste is not ared. So far, safe long-term disposal cannot be guaranteed. The half-life of plutonium is about 24 years.000 years, but the majority of the waste is low-level radioactive material. There is already no acceptable solution for the existing nuclear waste, the search for a safe final repository will lead to conflicts, and the costs are difficult to calculate, especially since many billions will be spent on the upcoming dismantling of the existing nuclear power plants.
  2. The costs of nuclear technology are unknown. There is a high risk that unforeseen costs will be passed on to the taxpayer.
  3. Nuclear power provides inflexibility and has created a centralized energy distribution system "at the very time when the opportunities for small producers and local networks are better than ever before".
  4. Moreover, according to the sdc, a new nuclear program would hinder further, and far from exhausted, energy conservation and give a "wrong signal" to the people.
  5. Moreover, an important political argument is that you cannot deny other countries, such as iran, access to nuclear technology when you are starting a new program yourself. And internationally, lower standards that could be expected, the risk of accidents, the spread of technology or terrorist attacks were discussed. The necessary transport of fuel rods is a permanent risk. Even spent fuel rods can still be used to make "dirty bombs". Countries can withdraw from agreements such as the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

For these reasons, the commission mainly came to the conclusion that a new nuclear program for energy production could not be justified at present. However, research into better and safer techniques should continue. It is possible that the question will have to be considered again in the future. The problems are compounded by the fact that as demand increases, uranium supplies are depleted more quickly. Instead of dependence on the ollanders, there was dependence on the main uranium suppliers australia, usa, canada, kazakhstan, south africa and niger.

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