Archive for the ‘Nuclear energy’ Tag
Scare stories about power cuts due to a lack of generating capacity are being supplemented by news of a forecast increase in energy cost of up to 60%. It seems energy is likely to become another political issue during the forth coming election. The lack of government planning and ill placed trust in the private sector has left the country in a sorry state.
Most energy companies are owned by overseas interests who’s loyalty is to shareholders, they also increasing rely on overseas supplies of gas and coal which are not wholly secure in terms of supply or price. Britain has always been a market where the price of goods has tended to be higher in relative terms than other countries. That imbalance has come to energy prices and will, no doubt get a lot worse.
The only self sufficient energy source of any size is nuclear generation which comes with its own unique problems among which is the continuing dithering of the government over planning rules and long-term storage of radio active waste. In the time-scales we are currently facing new nuclear stations are probably the only choice as the green options just can not deliver the capacity we need over the next 30 to 50 years.
I can remember the supporters of nuclear energy touting the idea that this new technology would provide us will cheap, pollution free energy for ever. The visitors centre at Doonray in northern Scotland proudly boasted that nuclear fission was safe and economic. It was the way of the future and we invested in new generating plants around the country. The doom and gloom merchants were derided as Luddites. How different it is now.
Nuclear energy has been at the dirty end of the market for years. New power stations are rare although there is a developing view that we may have no alternative as renewable sources of energy seen unable to much impact on our needs. Nuclear power stations cost billions to decommission and sit as potential hazards for thousands of years. We have taken a natural material and converted it into a deadly substance. One that could see towns and cities closed for years due to the contamination from a dirty bomb.
It not surprising that the Irish Government want to see Sellafield closed. There is no doubt it has polluted the Irish Sea and parts of the English, Scottish and Irish mainland for years. It is a legacy from the past that would be best closed down. Unfortunately for the Irish and those who live in the shadow of the site commercial interests are proving more important than the environment and human life. Its another example of how we continually get the balance wrong and bow down to Mammon instead of ourselves.
Last autumn concerns were expressed over the security of Britain’s energy supplies. We now hear the country’s gas reserves are down to just four days. If the cold weather of January and February returns the lights could start going out. The limitations of north sea gas were known from the start and a decision was taken not to allow gas to be used for electricity generation. This would protect a value resource for as long as possible. Then came the fight with the coal industry and the scene was set for a show down with employees in the power industry. Its somewhat apt that the media is full of reports and articles about the coal strike and the role of the Government in beating the NUM and reducing the coal industry to three scuttles and a small bunker.
The loss of coal generation and the growing concern about acid rain, pollution and the problems of nuclear power and the cost of decommissioning old reactors eventually resulted in the government changing the rules. Power stations could be fuelled by gas and now 37% of our electricity is produced this way. Instead of investing in renewable and sustainable energy sources we went for the quick and easy solution and squandered the gas reserves. We also failed to plan ahead and invest in the harder solutions of alternative energy and energy conservation.
Now we face the same bleak future as most other European countries, although they have taken steps to ensure they have significantly larger reserves. We will depend on imports from countries in Eastern Europe and the former USSR. The tables have turned.