NEW POLL: Should nuclear power be part of the UK’s energy mix?

Climate change and energy secretary Chris Huhne was on Radio 4 this morning with what will have been, for many Lib Dems, a surprise announcement: that the Lib Dem / Conservative coalition government is fully behind the opening of a new nuclear power station in eight years’ time.

Arguing in favour of in favour of a mix of more nuclear, oil and gas and renewable energy, Chris declared, “I have no intention of the lights going out on my watch.”

This is something of a change in direction for Liberal Democrat party policy. For example, in the 2010 manifesto the party committed itself to:

Reject a new generation of nuclear power stations; based on the evidence nuclear is a far more expensive way of reducing carbon emissions than promoting energy conservation and renewable energy.

And Chris has himself been very direct about his opposition to nuclear power in the past – for example, in March 2006 condemning then Prime Minister Tony Blair for backing nuclear energy as part of Britain’s future energy mix:

Nuclear power is a tried, tested and failed energy source with such massive risks and costs that no private investor has been prepared to fund a generating plant since Three Mile Island and Chernobyl without lashings of government subsidy. New nuclear plants would be a costly mistake.”

His previous statements would appear then to leave little wriggle room. However, it’s worth making two points.

First, Chris’s previous comments and the party manifesto do refer explicitly to the costliness of nuclear energy – and he is making it quite clear that there will be no public subsidy for nuclear energy. Any new power stations will be built solely through private investment.

And, secondly, Chris points out that the identified sites for new nuclear power are unlikely to be places where there is local opposition:

There are a number of sites that have been identified around the country and those are generally on sites where we have previously had, for example, nuclear power stations and where the local people are very keen that there should be new nuclear build.”

But, still, Chris’s new-found enthusiasm for nuclear energy sits oddly with the text of the coalition agreement which openly acknowledged the different stances of the two governing partners:

Liberal Democrats have long opposed any new nuclear construction. Conservatives, by contrast, are committed to allowing the replacement of existing nuclear power stations provided they are subject to the normal planning process for major projects (under a new national planning statement) and provided also that they receive no public subsidy.

We have agreed a process that will allow Liberal Democrats to maintain their opposition to nuclear power while permitting the government to bring forward the national planning statement for ratification by Parliament so that new nuclear construction becomes possible.

So, what is the view of Lib Dem Voice readers of this development in the party’s approach to nuclear energy? Here’s the new poll question we’re asking:

    Do you believe Chris Huhne is right to say that nuclear power, alongside oil and gas and renewable sources, should be part of the UK’s energy mix?

And here are your options to answer:

  • Yes – nuclear should be part of the mix as long as there is no public subsidy
  • Yes – nuclear should be part of the mix even if some public subsidy proves necessary
  • No – nuclear power should play no part in the UK’s energy mix.

Feel free to discuss further below …

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This entry was posted in News and Voice polls.


  • Andrea Gill 9th Aug '10 - 2:33pm

    My partner would have voted for us if it hadn’t been for the nuclear power part of our manifesto. As long as alternatives are explored and promoted (possibly with the ultimate aim to eventually phase out nuclear) and no subsidies are made, I don’t see why new nuclear shouldn’t play a role for the foreseeable future. Long-term I would like to see us moving away from nuclear and towards renewables fully, but we don’t have the land mass of say Germany to cover this just yet.

  • I think we should allow nuclear without subsidies, with the caveat that I support a carbon tax.

    I wonder how we can guarantee that the government will not eventually have to pay for decommissioning?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th Aug '10 - 2:44pm

    So has Chris Huhne unilaterally changed the party’s policy on nuclear power? Or is he saying that he now opposes the party’s policy on nuclear power? Or what?

    Is there really any point in continuing to have a separate party, if this is the way things are going to go?

  • Nuclear Power – NO as it stands at present – expensive – dangerous – relies on importing fuel from abroad.

  • Andrew Suffield 9th Aug '10 - 2:54pm

    The neat thing about the ‘with no public subsidy’ option is that it works for both sides. If you believe that nuclear power is impractical to implement in an acceptable manner, then denying it subsidy means it won’t happen.

    To be clear: existing nuclear plants could not have operated without public subsidy, but there is considerable doubt as to whether that would still be true if it hadn’t been available. Basically, some people suspect that the nuclear industry has developed to be “just good enough” and has not acted to minimise the costs, because the government was picking up the bill. When presented with a genuine profit motive, there’s a decent chance that the industry will make improvements to the technology. There’s certainly enough development projects for low-cost nuclear going on around the world, and some of those might prove to be a more sensible approach than our old “who cares what cost” plants.

    I wonder how we can guarantee that the government will not eventually have to pay for decommissioning?

    No guarantees because you can’t predict the cost. It’s a financial risk management thing, rather than a guarantee. The accountants know how to do that.

  • I always felt differently to the Lib Dems position that nuclear power shouldn’t even be considered. I just don’t feel ruling out any options from discussion is sensible.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th Aug '10 - 3:11pm

    “The neat thing about the ‘with no public subsidy’ option is that it works for both sides. If you believe that nuclear power is impractical to implement in an acceptable manner, then denying it subsidy means it won’t happen.”

    Obviously it doesn’t mean any such thing, because nuclear power is going right ahead, with – as you yourself say – absolutely no guarantee that there won’t be a public subsidy!

  • Given how difficult it is to get enough renewable capacity in the short term (until technology is improved somewhat), not having new nuclear power will only be doable by continuing to burn coal, oil, and gas. Personally I support one more generation of nuclear power to cover the time needed to develop and deploy renewables while taking fossil-fuel stations offline.

  • (I am quite happy for government to subsidize the nuclear power industry – it’s essential infrastructure.)

  • cynicalHighlander 9th Aug '10 - 3:35pm

    Power corrupts!

    “No private sector investor has built a nuclear power station anywhere in the world without lashings of government subsidy since Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. The World Bank refuses to lend on nuclear projects because of the long history of overruns.
    “Our message is clear, No to nuclear, as it is not a short cut, but a dead end. Yes to energy saving, yes to renewables, and yes to a sustainable energy future.”

    Now who said that?

    Nuclear power is retrograde and its only use is to build WMD.

  • Brown-outs in the short term are a genuine possibility given Great Britain’s current facilities to provide energy. Nuclear power has to be a credible option in tandem with renewables. Huhne’s statement is further reason why my politics are diluting blue with yellow.

  • The coalition document was very clear: nuclear, without subsidy. Huhne is now energy secretary and must implement that policy, just the same as Tory ministers must implement Lib Dem aspects of policy in the coalition deal, even if they dont like them. The alternative was not to have a Lib Dem at environment, which would surely be biting off nose to spite face. A Lib Dem environment minister is one of the things that makes this coalition worthwhile.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th Aug '10 - 4:29pm


    So has Stephen got it wrong, then? This isn’t “a change in direction for Liberal Democrat party policy”. Is Lib Dem policy unchanged?

  • “…its only use is to build WMD.”

    A clearly untrue statement. Nuclear power is the primary use of nuclear technology in the world. WMD are a secondary use, they always have been ever since research in to nuclear technology started.

  • Andrea Gill 9th Aug '10 - 5:08pm

    @Tom isn’t the “no subsidy” option what you describe?

  • I am instinctively against nuclear power (and weapons) on principle – there are just far too many unanswered questions about safety, security and waste. On top of which, the idea of “no public subsidy” is a complete smokescreen. Even if we accept that the plants will be built and run without public money, decommissioning, waste disposal, not to mention insurance/contingency against accidents or spillages will always fall ultimately to the state.

    However, given the energy security and climate issues we face, I would have to say that nuclear power falls under the same category as “clean coal.” I don’t want it and I don’t believe in it, but if it buys us the time we need to build up renewable energy infrastructure and make the changes to our lifestyles and environments required to adapt to a low carbon society, then we’ll have to accept it.

    What we must not do is build a new generation of nuclear plants and then slip back into complacency about the important changes that must be made in our energy supply.

  • Rejecting nuclear power has always been the one area of significant disagreement between myself and the libdems, although never enough not to be a member anyway.

    I’d love to have loads of green and renewable power sources, but we just won’t have enough of them fast enough providing sufficient power consistently to solve our problems.

    Nuclear power it totally clean and will meet all those carbon targets. Shame about the waste, but we can reprocess lots of it and personally I think we shouldn’t store it, but launch it into the sun. Probably be cheaper than storing it.

  • Is there any principle or policy that the Orange Tories won’t abandon to please their Blue Tory masters? I have always supported nuclear power but to hear Huhne turning through 180 degrees on the Today programme was nauseating. It seems that if you want to know what the Orange Tories’ policies are these days read their manifesto and think the opposite and you’ll be about right.

  • Of all the disappointment leaking out since the LDs formed the coalition, this one really stinks. I voted for LDs largely on their policies for climate change and energy. They are now back-pedalling and spinning the same propaganda we expect from the Tories.

    The claims of “no subsidies” are transparent nonsense. It is *impossible* to produce electricity from nuclear without the taxpayer being fleeced at some stage. The waste alone from nuclear must be stored and guarded for hundreds or thousands of years – here’s a taster of that:

    * £4bn black hole in UK nuclear power budget for unavoidable nuclear decommissioning and waste costs. “What we are effectively paying for here is decades of cheap nuclear electricity for which we have suddenly got a massive postdated bill.”

    And from the BBC interview:

    > “We are on course to make sure that the first new nuclear power station opens on time in 2018,” Mr Huhne said.

    He’s claiming it will be on time and they haven’t even chosen where the thing will be built or demonstrated that private investment is going to risk its arm and leg on the project. And anyone who pays attention to nuclear power knows the only consistent thing about it is that it *never* gets built on time and to budget.

    > …the local people are very keen that there should be new nuclear build.

    Really? Where are the polls of “local people”? I want to see the evidence, because you no longer have any credibility, Mr Huhne.

    It’s always the same: grand election promises turn in to mealy-mouthed hypocrisy.

    P.S. “I have no intention of the lights going out on my watch.” Jebus. Has he turned in to George Bush?!


  • cynicalHighlander 9th Aug '10 - 5:49pm
  • More and more of this tory stuff keeps coming out – if only the continuing UK Liberals weren’t so feeble (and anti Europe) …
    I think when my membership expires I’ll just have to be non-party for a while until a genuine Liberal force re-emerges!

  • And here’s 2006 Chris Huhne:

    > “Our message is clear, No to nuclear, as it is not a short cut, but a dead end. Yes to energy saving, yes to renewables, and yes to a sustainable energy future.” –

    What a politician!

  • cynicalHighlander 9th Aug '10 - 5:58pm

    Wrong link Alex

    Maybe the site owner could remve one of my double linked post above, thanks.

  • Great news. We should support nuclear on exactly the same financial basis as other non carbon sources of electricy. They should be eligible for the same subsidies as wind etc.
    At the moment nuclear power even has to pay the climate levy.

    There is simply no other way of supplying large base load electricity which is carbon free

  • Colin Green 9th Aug '10 - 6:03pm

    An anti-nuclear stance was the right thing during the 1980s when climate change was unknown to the public. I remember a sense that nuclear war could happen at any time. Except of course you can have power stations without war, or even without nuclear warheads.

    Climate change may well become the big issue of the 21st century. We must adopt low carbon and zero carbon energy sources to reduce our emissions and we must start now. We should be open minded and be willing to review our stance on nuclear energy, even if we decide after careful thought to continue to be opposed to it.

    Nuclear energy is expensive, but so is all low carbon power, isn’t it? Whilst we should pursue renewables with vigour, I think that nuclear power in addition can get us to a low carbon power grid faster, which is a good thing. Perhaps there are cheaper ways of low carbon electricity than nuclear. If we’re building them as fast as we can but can also do nuclear too, are you still opposed to this other than the cost?

    In terms of votes, I know many who cite our anti-nuclear power stance as a barrier. No doubt either way we lose some and gain some supporters. The Lib Dems annti-nuclear policy was one reason why it took me so long to join.

  • Nuclear is something I’ve always sided with Labour / Tories on (though not enough to prevent me supporting the LDs). We need non-intermittant low-carbon energy – fast. Hopefully several decades from now we can provide clean, continuous energy with a mix of renewables, but right now it’s just not possible without either nuclear or fossil fuels to plug the gaps. And we can’t afford to wait for decades before decarbonising our energy.

    Well, actually that’s not true – we probably can wait and deal with the consequences of 2 degrees global warming, but developing countries will be screwed. For anyone who cares about vulnerable people in the developing world (who didn’t even cause this problem in the first place), surely tackling climate change trumps any nuclear concerns. In any case, new generation reactors are much safer and produce a lot less waste.

    Personally, I hope our MPs/ministers mutiny over things like free schools and housing. But if the coalition makes us revisit the nuclear issue with a fresh eye, I for one will be cheering.

  • Colin Green 9th Aug '10 - 6:17pm

    Catherine, I agree fully. We need nuclear as a 50 year stop gap between the carbon based power grid that we have today and the renewable carbon free grid that I hope we have developed by the middle of the century. Nuclear is the only stop gap that we have now. The price of not doing it is the worsening of the man made portion of climate change. This is the price we need to weigh against the unattractive elements of nuclear power.

  • Adam Bell made an interesting point when he mentioned the utility that nuclear power has for baseload generation to meet the future needs of electric cars and heating. That is exactly the reason why I have always been against the development of electric cars: they are a con. OK, they don’t burn fossil fuel in the way that today’s cars do, but electricity, although giving the illusion of being clean, is actually an incredibly wasteful form of delivering energy (I’m sure someone can provide a link to information about energy loss in electricity generation and transmission). I would guess, for example, that the latest generation of coalfired steam engines would be much more carbon efficient than further electrification of the rail network.

  • The usual nuclear propaganda is being regurgitated – either ignorantly or intentionally – on this thread as it is on almost every other that mentions it.

    Nuclear is not a solution to global warming – it will make it worse. Nuclear emits carbon at every stage of its lifecycle. It is expensive. It is *slow* to build. It takes investment away from the clean, safe, renewable energy that we need.

    It is a myth and lie that nuclear is needed to provide baseload for renewables – see Spain, see Germany, see Denmark, etc. The nuclear propaganda mill is lying to you.

    Every new nuclear plant commits future generations to ever-increasing costs for decommissioning, contaminated land and waste storage that will last for centuries, possibly millennia along with the billions of £££s in costs – whether they want it or not.

  • Colin Green 9th Aug '10 - 6:45pm


    Electric cars are not zero carbon if the source of the electricity is carbon sources, true enough, but I can’t agree with the rest of your statement. Compared to the internal combustion engine, power stations and the national grid to power electric cars is the more efficient option. Neither is at all what I would call efficient but the internal combustion engine is worse.

    That said, the automotive industry is finally getting the idea that we need more efficiency. 10 years from now cars will be a lot better than they are today.

  • I don’t quite believe that nuclear power without subsidies is possible – especially if you consider secondary costs and investments such as the safe storage of nuclear waste afterwards. I wonder whether they are honest about the ful costs if they have actually found a private company to fund this new project?

    Anyway – I’d rather not have any nuclear power at all, but realisticly speaking, I am not sure how we can now reduce carbon emissions without it – we’ll probably have to rely on nuclear to avoid a much bigger disaster than a potential nuclear reactor incident.

    It’s not an idea I like very much, but that’s what it looks like….

  • NO to nuclear power from me. It is not a sustainable solution to global warming. Everyone seems to keep forgetting that it does require a fuel – uranium – of which there are only enough reserves for a few more decades. Even though nuclear power is (somewhat – not drastically, when all energy inputs are considered) less polluting than burning coal or oil, in my view the downsides (radioactive waste disposal, security, diverting investment from greener technologies) outweigh the benefit of a few decades’ worth of nuclear power, after which the plants will all need to be decommissioned.

  • Apparently one of the first announcements from the Coalition’s Department of Energy and Climate Change was to introduce a floor price for carbon within the Emissions Trading Scheme of between £30 to £50 per ton. It presently is £13.
    The intention of the raise is to skew the market to boost generators who do not pump out carbon dioxide and therefore make nuclear power much more attractive to future investors. This is how Nuclear Power will avoid subsididy but it will mean much higher energy prices for the public who will ultimately bear the cost. A typical Blue Tory scheme — no subsidy and higher prices — the huge cost of Nuclear passed on to the consumer — and the Orange Tories are going along with it and clutching at the ‘No Subsidy’ pyrrhic victory to save their blushes. Dave’s had you again!

  • Anthony Aloysius St 9th Aug '10 - 8:24pm

    “Just because he is a Lib Dem does not mean, however, that coalition policy in this area is suddenly Lib Dem policy too.”

    To be quite honest, if people like Stephen Tall are confused about whether Lib Dem policy has changed, what chance does the ordinary elector stand of working out what the hell the party stands for?

    And this isn’t just about policy, either. It says a lot about Chris Huhne’s personal integrity. What he is saying now is completely incompatible with what he was saying a few months ago. I can’t see how he can have been stating his honest opinion about the viability of nuclear power then, and also stating his honest opinion about it now.

  • What utter hypocrisy from Mr Huhne. I listened to the radio and my heart sank… he nearly went as far as saying that the planning decisions had already been approved (I suspect there may be a cosy relationship here).

    So much for consultation Mr Huhne… so much for principles…. so much for consistency.

    I despair … and will think very long and hard about voting Lib Dem in future because I will be unable to trust that the outcome will bear ANY similarity to the manifesto commitments..

  • I’m beginning to wonder what Lib Dem policies actually are.

  • anon power worker 9th Aug '10 - 10:34pm

    “No subsidy” is a meaningless statement. Is an increased carbon tax a nuclear subsidy or isn’t it? What about the cost of cleaning up a major nuclear accident, which is so large (if not very likely) that no insurance company can provide cover for it, so that the costs would inevitably fall back on the state? What about the decommissioning cost overrun that will inevitably occur at end of life, will Huhne promise not to pick up the tab?

    People want to think that nuclear is a nice simple easy button that they can press, and hey presto, climate change is solved. The opposite is the case. Nuclear means blood, toil, sweat, tears, cost overruns, corners cut. It always does. It gobbles up money and it gobbles up engineers. If we go for it, we can say goodbye to renewables. There will be nobody left to design them and no money left to build them.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 10th Aug '10 - 12:12am

    “I’m beginning to wonder what Lib Dem policies actually are.”

    Still waiting for clarification on that one from a reputable source. Or even from Stephen Tall …

  • @Stephen – Because renewables are NEW technology that are in need of subsidy to develop. Nuclear – at least fission – is old technology. Huhne has already expressed interest in fusion developments though. (According to various House of Commons Energy debates)

  • Stephen W:

    > Do we, or do we not, have massive subsidies for wind power, wave power etc?

    No, we don’t – nowhere near close to the subsidies that have been and would be handed to nuclear. Here’s a taster:

    * £4bn black hole in UK nuclear power budget for unavoidable nuclear decommissioning and waste costs. “What we are effectively paying for here is decades of cheap nuclear electricity for which we have suddenly got a massive postdated bill.”

    > And like nuclear do these tehcnologies not involve significant environmental impact, carbon outlay in production, construction manufacturing?

    No, they do not. Uranium mining causes a *lot* of environmental damage. Nuclear reactors leak – a *lot*. Wind turbines and solar panels do not. Nuclear produces more CO2 during its lifecycle than wind.

    > If so, why the hell not for nuclear?

    Cost, safety, health, corporate control and time to deployment.

    > Do people arguing against nuclear seriously think that we are ever going to be able to supply all our energy needs from renewables?

    Yes. Germany is targeting 100% renewables by 2050 and they are already ahead of schedule. Spain, Denmark, Italy are all going the same route. If they can do it, so can we.

  • Andrew Suffield 10th Aug '10 - 2:14am

    The waste alone from nuclear must be stored and guarded for hundreds or thousands of years

    That’s a myth perpetrated by the nuttier fringe of the green lobby. The “long term waste” is unused fuel, and is not hugely different to what was dug out of the ground in the first place. At some point long before it decays to inert metals, we’ll be fetching it out of storage and using it as fuel. The only reason we aren’t doing that today is because mining fresh uranium is cheaper.

    The stuff that’s useless and highly radioactive has a very short half-life and will not need to be stored for hundreds of years. That’s what “highly radioactive” means.

  • Andrew Suffield:

    > That’s a myth perpetrated by the nuttier fringe of the green lobby.

    That’s the tired response given by the nuclear propaganda mill and regurgitated by its credulous and ignorant fan club. As detailed by the American Physical Society (one of the largest and most prestigious scientific academies on the planet), nuclear waste needs to be stored for somewhere between 10,000 and 1,000,000 (1 million) years.

    > The “long term waste” is unused fuel, and is not hugely different to what was dug out of the ground in the first place.

    Ignorant nonsense.

    > …we’ll be fetching it out of storage and using it as fuel.

    Really? You have a guarantee that the technology to do this becomes commercially viable? When? Decades? Or centuries? Please show that guarantee.

    Like so many of the nuclear fan club you’re simply repeating nonsense propaganda.

  • Little mention has been made here of the contribution of either better insulation / reduction of electricity transmission losses, or, in fact reduction in fuel / power demand. Latest studies show that together with that, plus the increased quick investment we must have in the applications of genuine renewables, would enable us to face the future without nuclear. The whole idea of getting new nuclear actually producing power in 8 years from this point is bonkers, based on past experience. Even without “subsidy” issues, and without major public protest / planning issues this is pretty unlikely! During that time we could agree and instal a fair amount of renewable capacity (see Lib Dem policy documents).

    From the party’s point of view, sacrificing our anti-nuclear position would wave goodbye to our reputation and political position as the “practical green party” – we would / will? lose the support of the many who see the Green Party as impractical (and potentially highly authoritarian). With the point mentioned above on protest / proper planning consultation etc, we risk with “a dash for nuclear” (to replace the high carbon “dash for gas”) our reputation as supporter of local democracy and fair processes – which are also risked elsewhere in the coalition programme.

    These together with the possibility of an alternative economics based not purely on free marketeering, Thatcherite style, formed a core of the Lib Dem value system. ALL of these are either under threat or abandoned in the new order. This is a high – and probably unaffordable – price to pay for political power. To become Britain’s version of Germany’s FDP is not why most of us got involved in the Liberals pre 1988 or the Lib Dems since.

  • Elizabeth Patterson 10th Aug '10 - 9:39am

    My opinion for what it is worth, agrees with Adam above that, because of the energy gap we should perhaps allow ONE MORE GENERATION of nuclear, without public subsidy, while we develop the renewable fraction of our supplies. Chris pointed out in his interview that we have the lowest renewables in Europe at present. And I understand that the clean coal technology has also some way to go.

    My objection to nuclear apart from cost, has always been that it goes against the principle of sustainable ecology set up long ago in Agenda 21 of the Rio Earth Summit, ie that we should not degrade the environment . No one seems to discuss the question of the nuclear waste legacy; until that is addressed I have to remain anti-nuclear.

    But we do have to be practical and weigh our ANTI-NUCLEAR stance against the new CLIMATE CHANGE imperative on carbon emissions,.

  • As I remember, Elizabeth, the Rio agreement was already looking at climate change and lowering carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas levels as a major part of the discussion leading to the agreement. As always, it seems that sacrifice a long time in the future is OK, but if asked to do it now or in the immediate future we all back off!

  • @ Stephen W

    “Do we, or do we not, have massive subsidies for wind power, wave power etc?”

    No. That’s why the government’s scientific advisers have suggested an increased floor price for carbon within the Emissions Trading Scheme of £50 per tonne. The ETS is the scheme under which coal and gas fired power stations need permits to emit greenhouse gasses. The market will thus be skewed so that nuclear and renewables such as wind farms, tidal power, and microgenerators will become more attractive to future investors. But it will mean a huge hike in prices for consumers because it will be years before the country is sufficient in these forms of energy and it will remain reliant on the high carbon based generators which will in the future see their carbon floor price increased four fold. The increased tax on carbon will have to be paid for by the consumers. Thus, without subsidy, the consumers will have to bear the cost but will see none of the benefits from the profits. This will have a devastating effect on the poor and the elderly for whom energy costs form, after food, the most significant part of the weekly budget. So rejoice. You will have to have your Nuclear power stations but they won’t be real ones because they won’t be subsidised. So that’s all right then. A paradigmatic Blue Tory con. Thank heaven there are plenty of Orange Tories on this site who can see through it as well as old statist socialists like myself who would dearly love to see renewables given a huge state subsidy.

  • So what is new? The fact that we haven’t done anywhere near enough in the last 18 years? Numerous reports have shown that the environment is degrading even faster now than we even thought in 1992, so the urgency is even greater to use as clean technologies as we can – nothing is risk-free!

  • An important element in this debate is the appalling irresponsibility of the last Labour governments, which avoided making any decision on future electricity generation from 1997 until the dying months of 2009, when of course it knew it would not have to bear the consequences of its new-found decisiveness. Basic funding to develop clean coal technology was introduced and then withdrawn, and the legislation to encourage its use was repeatedly delayed.

    There has been far less new power generation infrastructure brought on line in the last decade than in all previous decades since WW2. Remember last year David McKay, the Energy Department’s chief adviser, forecasting widespread power cuts by 2016?

    So the coalition starts in a really difficult place. It seems to me that Huhne is to be congratulated for recognising that his own distaste for nuclear power takes second place to the desperate need to have significant new generating capacity online in a few years time.

  • Colin Green 10th Aug '10 - 1:20pm


    “Remember last year David McKay, the Energy Department’s chief adviser, forecasting widespread power cuts by 2016? … It seems to me that Huhne is to be congratulated for recognising that his own distaste for nuclear power takes second place to the desperate need to have significant new generating capacity online in a few years time.”

    Hear Hear!

  • Firstly, all nuclear power stations need government subsidy of some kind, mostly because of the security issue with the waste.

    Secondly, IMHO, the Lib Dems need this years conference to CLEARLY articulate what is Lib Dem policy, what is the Coalition governments policies, what we are willing to compromise on and what we won’t. Our position is so fluid on so many issues, its barely decipherable. We really need to know what it is we stand for and stand against, so that the public can decide what we are, and whether they should vote for us. Time to nail colours to the mast.

  • In the US, all plant decommissioing costs are covered by a trust fund that is paid into by the plant owner over the plant’s life. This is required by law and the funds are routinely audited to ensure that the contributions are sufficient. Due to the long plant life, and the power of long-term compounding interest, this only costs ~0.25 cents/kW-hr. Several plants have been decomissioned, and the costs are well known.

    US plants also pay all costs associated with waste management and disposal through a 0.1 cent/kW-hr fee on all power generated. These contributions are also audited to ensure their adequacy. Note that delays in the (Yucca) project only make the 0.1 fee more and more sufficient, due to the effect of compounding interest (a cost delayed is a cost reduced).

    So, yes, Britain can ensure that all plant decommissioning and waste management/disposal costs are fully covered by the industry (and not the taxpayer). All they have to do is put the right laws in place. And no, these costs will not add significantly to the overall cost of nuclear electricity.

    It should be noted that a lot of the high cleanup costs Britain is facing are from defense activities, early experimental reactor designs and operational practices way back in the bad old days (in the ’50s, before environmentalism). Due to superior design, better operational practices, strict regulations, and inherent cleanliness of the LWR design, modern nuclear plants will not make a significant “mess” that will be expensive to clean up. Experience has shown this to be true, in the rest of the world (e.g., the US) anyway.

  • I have no idea where some posters are coming from when they say that renewables are not subsidized. They are massively subsidized. In addition to being intermittent (and thus unable to provide most, let alone all power generation), they are significantly more expensive than nuclear. This is especially true of off-shore wind. Studies have shown that (for Britain) off-shore wind is over double the cost of nuclear, and would require six times as much public subsidy as nuclear to be competitive. Wind operators are given a guaranteed price for their output that is several times the market price for electricity. Not only does nuclear receive no such help, but it actually has to pay a climate change levy even though it emits zero/negligible CO2 (the operative word here is Orwellian).

    Given that external cost studies (e.g., the European Commission’s ExternE project) show that nuclear’s environmental impacts are similar to renewables, and tiny compared to fossil fuels, why should we have massive subsidies for renewables but insist on none for nuclear? If anything, renewables (like wind) are more problematic than nuclear given their massive land use requirements (esp. on a small densly populated island) and the fact that their intermittentcy will result in Britain having to use gas (from Russia) for most of their electricity (since only gas plants, vs. coal or nuclear) can ramp up and down to offset the fluctuations in wind power output.

    As for net CO2 emissions (for the entire power production cycle) nuclear’s emissions are ~2% of coal’s, ~5% of gas plants’, and similar to renewables. The punchline is that for both nuclear and renewables, CO2 emissions are essentially negligible.

  • “It seems to me that Huhne is to be congratulated”

    This is what gets me. Yet another example of lib dems saying one thing before the election and then doing EXACTLY the opposite. Where the hell is your decision making process? I always thought lib dems were a democratic party. When did you vote for big immediate tax cuts? When did you vote for privitising the NHS? When did you vote for a nuclear future?

    Now we hear that Clegg didnt believe what he said and had changed his mind about cutting the welfare state; we hear that Vince Cable thought VAT was a progressive tax all along. And, unbelievably, that Chris Huhne was always pro nuclear.

    Breathtaking political dishonesty which will find you out

  • No Alan,

    Not breathtaking political dishonesty, but the understanding by minimally-sophisticated political operators (aka grown ups) that changed circumstances can mean that alternative solutions need to be applied.

    Huhne doesn’t like nuclear, I don’t like nuclear, most of the party doesn’t like nuclear, but we all realise that it’s the lesser of two evils when the alternative is widespread power cuts in five years’ time thanks to New Labour’s incompetence and irresponsibility over the last 13 years.

  • what exactly has changed in the few weeks since the election that can justify everuthing you stoop fpor being ditched for the honour of sitting at the table with people like cameron and osborne? All that nonsense about Greece? what exactly has changed to make you ditch everything you have ever believed in? Say what you will about Labour who did things I am not happy with. But we would never get into bed with this crowd of right wing toffs and agree to everything they ask of us. Including hitting the poorest. And if you dont think that is what is happening just watch the impact of the spending cuts in 2011/12.

    But even I didnt think you would just roll over and have your tummy tickled by nuclear power. And part of my point was – Where was all this decided? Was it by lib dem members?

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