Britain must build 14 new nuclear plants, setting aside fears over radiation leaks, because that is the cheapest way of meeting compulsory carbon reduction targets, according to the Government’s climate change watchdog.
The number of offshore wind turbines planned for 2020 should be cut by up to third, because they are too expensive. The Committee on Climate Change says heavy reliance on offshore wind could result in unacceptable increases in fuel bills.
The committee today delivers recommendations on how to meet Britain’s EU obligation to increase the share of energy from renewable sources from 3 per cent to 15 per cent by 2020. It will also dismiss concerns over safety raised by the leaks from the tsunami-hit Fukushima reactors in Japan.
It says nuclear power, which produces no carbon dioxide, should play a central role in meeting its recommended target of cutting emissions by 60 per cent by 2030. The cost of meeting the target is expected to add at least £50 to the average household’s annual energy bills in the next ten years.
The watchdog’s intervention comes amid nuclear industry fears that Japan’s disaster could result in a delay in the approval of new reactors and an escalation in the cost of safety systems.
Dr Mike Weightman, the Health and Safety Executive’s chief nuclear inspector, is due to deliver an interim report commissioned to review safety in the wake of the Fukushima leaks.
The committee expects him to concur with their own conclusion that “the likelihood of natural disasters of this type and scale occurring in the UK is extremely small”. It adds that the reactor designs proposed in Britain “have benefited from considerable technological improvement since the 1960s Boiling Water Reactors used at Fukushima, including the incorporation of secondary backup and passive cooling facilities”.
The committee’s report, which was requested last year by Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, says that nuclear “should play a major role in decarbonisation”. It recommends that nuclear should provide 40 per cent of Britain’s electricity by 2030, up from 18 per cent now.
Renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydropower should provide another 40 cent, with gas-fired power stations supplying most of the remaining 20 per cent. David Kennedy, the committee’s chief executive, said: “Nuclear looks like it will be the lowest cost for the next decade or two. Renewables look like they will be expensive for the foreseeable future.”;
Mr Kennedy said that offshore wind turbines were likely to continue to need a subsidy at least until 2025. The Government should reduce by “several gigawatts” its target of 13 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity.
Before the Fukushima disaster, the Government and nuclear industry had been planning to build 12 new reactors on seven sites by 2025. The committee recommends that all these reactors should be built without delay and that sites should be found for at least two more reactors by 2030.
It says the extra reactors could either be built on the site of the existing Hartlepool nuclear power station or at one of the other seven sites approved by the Government for new nuclear plants.
The committee raises the possibility of Britain emulating France’s rapid reactor construction in the 1970s, which resulted in nuclear power accounting for 80 per cent of its electricity.
The committee’s endorsement of new nuclear reactors comes as a new opinion poll shows the Fukushima disaster has made little difference to public attitudes to nuclear power in Britain. About two-thirds (65 per cent) of Britons polled by Populus saw a role for nuclear in the UK’s energy mix, a level of support seen since 2007 when the company started tracking the issue.
It polled 2000 people and found 42 per cent were in favour of a new generation of nuclear power plants and 31 per cent opposed.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding