The debate over whether nuclear power is green landed on “yes” in Britain yesterday, as leaders from the nuclear and renewable industries combined forces to urge the government to take low carbon measures.
Their joint action even received an endorsement from an unlikely source – traditionally anti-nuclear environmental group Greenpeace.
The development marked the second sign in recent weeks that the British public is warming to nuclear power. Late last month, 40 percent of respondents in a UK YouGov/Sunday Times poll said they favored the additional use of nuclear.
This week, the heads of three key industry groups – the Nuclear Industry Association, RenewableUK (it represents wind and marine energy) and the Carbon Capture and Storage Association wrote to Energy Secretary Ed Davey to insist that his imminent energy bill support the groups’ different forms of low carbon power.
“If we are to meet the UK’s energy security and climate change targets it is vital that the momentum is maintained in building new low carbon generation,” states the letter, reprinted by The Guardian newspaper. “We believe the proposed reforms should help raise the necessary investment. Like Government, we believe that a diverse energy mix is likely to be the most cost-efficient pathway to largely decarbonising the power sector, which means investment in nuclear, renewables and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage.”
ENVIRONMENT, JOBS AT RISK
In their letter Keith Parker, Maria McCaffery and Jeff Chapman – CEOs respectively of the nuclear, renewables and carbon capture groups – also said that the bill should stipulate a large decarbonization in the power sector by 2030. And they warned Davey that jobs are at risk if he delays his bill, because investments will slip.
In a surprise backing, John Sauven,the executive director at Greenpeace UK, noted, “This letter shows that whilst different industries will have differing preferences for the exact mix of energy technologies, there is unity from across huge swathes of the business community on the need for a clear goal in the energy bill to take carbon almost completely out of the electricity system by 2030.”
Sauven – whose remarks were first reported by The Independent newspaper – is right. And while his comments stopped short of a full endorsement of nuclear power, it feels like Greenpeace is budging in that direction. Nuclear is, after all, carbon free.
Teach Greenpeace a few more lessons about the safety, waste and proliferation benefits that alternative nuclear technologies like thorium molten salt reactors have over conventional solid fuel uranium, and the environmental group could be squarely onboard.
Photo: Vanessa Miles, Greenpeace