“There is absolutely no case for subsidising nuclear power” said Dr Gerry Wolff of the Energy Fair group, responding to the recently-published draft of the Energy Bill 2012. “The proposed ‘feed-in tariff with contracts for difference’ is a blank cheque to a nuclear industry that is already heavily subsidised.”
The group’s report on “The financial risks of investing in new nuclear power plants” (bit.ly/JhdNtL) shows that, by the time any new nuclear power plant may be built in the UK (2020 or later), much of the market for its electricity will be disappearing. Consumers, both large and small, will be empowered to generate much of their own electricity or to buy it from anywhere in Europe -- because of the falling cost of renewables and the likely completion of the European internal market for electricity.
“Nuclear white elephants will be paid for via surcharges to consumers’ bills, perhaps for as much as 35 years.” said Dr Wolff. “It will be mainly poorer people that will foot the bill because they will be least able to afford the up-front costs of generating their own power.
“In terms of the fight against climate change, nuclear power diverts attention, effort, and large amounts of money away from better and cheaper solutions, where those resources would be more effectively spent. In general, renewables can be built very much faster than nuclear power stations, they are substantially more effective in cutting emissions, and, taking account of all subsidies, they are cheaper than nuclear power.
“Far from providing security of energy supplies, failure of a nuclear power station is normally very disruptive on the grid because, normally, a largish chunk of power is lost without much warning. By contrast, the gradual and predictable variations in the output of renewables are much easier to manage. There is a range of techniques which can ensure reliable, robust and responsive supplies of electricity from entirely renewable sources of power (see bit.ly/I4E5vr).
“Our research shows that there are more than enough renewable sources of power to meet our needs now and for the foreseeable future, they provide diversity in energy supplies, and they are largely free of the several problems with nuclear power, including the risk of nuclear disasters, the still-unsolved problem of what to do with nuclear waste that will be dangerous for thousands of years, and facilitating the proliferation of nuclear weapons.”
The Energy Fair group has already submitted a formal complaint to the European Commission (the Directorate General for Competition) about subsidies for nuclear power.
“Nuclear power is a long-established industry that should be commercially-viable without support.” said Dr Wolff. “Subsidies should be reserved for renewable technologies that are relatively new and are still finding their feet commercially.”