The UK has been accused of having a short-sighted approach to nuclear power by a fellowship of the world’s most eminent scientists.
The Royal Society released a report on 13 October that calls for the government to formulate a long-term strategy in research, planning and new build – elements it believes are all missing from current Whitehall plans.
Roger Cashmore, chairman of the Royal Society working group and also head of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, said: “The last time any UK government articulated a coherent long term plan for nuclear power was in 1955. We need to ensure that government and industry work together now to develop a long-term, holistic strategy for nuclear power in the UK.”
He said this strategy “must encompass the entire nuclear fuel cycle, from fresh fuel manufacture to disposal”.
“We need a clearly articulated long-term plan, which also addresses the UK’s current reprocessing capacity and the options that it provides in an uncertain future, both for the UK’s nuclear power programme and indeed a global nuclear renaissance. The government needs to seriously consider whether we wish to close off our future reprocessing options, which we stand to lose by default under the government’s current assumptions.”
The Royal Society timed the release of its report for the day it was addressed by UK energy secretary Chris Huhne.
In his speech, Huhne conceded that nuclear “has uncertainties, as the cancellation of new programmes in Japan and Italy and the phase out of existing reactors in Germany all show”.
He said “the economics of new nuclear are still untested and the industry still has to prove that it can build these enormous investments on time and to budget”.
It was for this reason, he said, that nuclear would be part of the UK’s future energy mix, and not the dominant partner in it.
“It is the only sensible way to handle risk. However attractive one share may look today, it is rash to put all your money into just one stock. Governments should not bet the farm.”
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