UK nuclear firm goes on the climate offensive

Build new capacity or take cars off the roads three days per week, says BNFL chairman

The UK must decide within five years whether to build new nuclear electricity generating capacity, the head of nuclear services firm BNFL said today. Hugh Collum claimed that the UK and other countries would face serious energy security problems and rising greenhouse gas emissions without continued investment in nuclear.

Mr Collum's speech follows closely on the heels of the European Commission's energy security paper (ENDS Daily 30 November), and draws strongly contradictory conclusions. The EU paper emphasises demand management and renewable energy growth rather than nuclear.

But renewables cannot fill the gap, according to Mr Collum. The UK would have to build three new wind farms every day for the next ten years to meet its renewable energy target, he said. A recent French government review had concluded that renewables would never supply more than 10% of future electricity, while the Swedish government had delayed closing a second nuclear reactor because it was not sure that renewables would make up for the lost generating capacity (ENDS Daily 4 October).

UK energy supply also risked becoming unbalanced, Mr Collum claimed. All but one of its nuclear power stations were due to close by 2025, and without new capacity the share of nuclear generated electricity would fall from 28% to 3%. Most of this was officially projected to be made up through new gas generation. This was "putting too many energy eggs in one basket".

Focusing specifically on climate change, Mr Collum said that without nuclear the UK and other countries would face an "impossible conundrum". The choice to be made, he told his audience was "would you rather replace an existing nuclear plant with a new one on the same site, or tell people in a few years' time to take their cars off the road for more than three days a week".

Follow Up:
BNFL, tel: +44 1295 83 20 00, and Hugh Collum's speech.

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