New energy policy outlines increased dependence on nuclear power

February 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Note: this is from a piece I wrote for Redbrick Paper. You can find a host of other news about Birmingham and the wider world on their fine site.

Amid growing public opposition to wind turbines the government has unveiled plans to increase the role nuclear power will play in the UK’s energy economy over the next 8 years.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change has published figures that suggest by 2020 12% of the UK’s energy will come from nuclear power. Increasing the UK’s reliance on nuclear energy whilst building more offshore wind farms is expected to reduce the national grid’s reliance on coal-fired power stations.

Over the next 8 years the lifespan of existing nuclear power stations will be extended by ten years, according to the government’s report. Two new nuclear power plants are also expected to be connected by 2020, allowing the government to meet its targets on carbon reductions.

This report comes as 100 conservative MPs sign a letter to the Prime Minister David Cameron urging him reduce subsidies to onshore wind farms. This letter is designed to reflect the public opinion on wind farms, which many believe to be costly and unattractive. Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris has said that “The more the true full cost of wind energy is exposed the more you have to ask why we continue to back such an expensive and intermittent source of energy”.

The latest figures from the government have revised the role wind power will play in the UK’s energy mix. Wind farms will now produce 4GW less energy than originally expected. This reduction will be balanced by an increase in the use of nuclear energy.

However, given the increased attention nuclear energy has received over the past year it is not clear that this new energy mix will be palatable to the UK public either. Nearly a year ago the Fukushima disaster saw the meltdown of 3 nuclear reactors following the Tōhoku earthquake. As the anniversary of the disaster draws nearer public fears surrounding nuclear energy will no doubt be heightened.

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