The UK is sadly becoming habituated to an officially sponsored attrition of truth about nuclear power. Despite intensifying propaganda, even government data shows this military-backed technology to be, in reality, an expensive, slow, unreliable, risky and unpopular way to deliver affordable, secure, zero-carbon energy.
The gap in efficacy and competitiveness between nuclear and other options is continually growing. Supporting nuclear, rather than energy efficiency, wind and solar, slows down climate action, bleeds taxpayers, forgoes jobs and forces unnecessarily large and regressive burdens on consumers.
Yet firehosing scarce public resources at ailing nuclear initiatives proceeds unabated. The nuclear fuel fund announced by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on Tuesday is yet another among uncounted nozzles pointed variously at research, liability, insurance, training, finance, regulation, planning, non-proliferation, security, waste management, grid codes etc
One notable feature of this most recent example of a worsening syndrome is that in the opening lines introducing this initiative, the BEIS says: “Nuclear is the only form of reliable, low-carbon generation which has been deployed at scale to date.”
Whatever side is taken amid the complexities, the manifest falsity of this starkly unqualified statement is extraordinary. As the government’s own data also shows, the costs of managing variable supply are rapidly diminishing and are already far smaller than the competitiveness gap between nuclear and renewables. Current renewable contributions to UK electricity far exceed the peak achieved by nuclear.
When did it become acceptable in British public life that a supposedly democratic government should so seriously misrepresent reality in a formal policy document?
In a period when stakes are unprecedentedly high for climate, economy, energy security and hard-pressed households, it is time to renew reasoned scientific and democratic debate in this field and prevent this national self-harm by unaccountable special interests.
Prof Andy Stirling
University of Sussex