Nuclear power could be cheaper low carbon alternative than renewables
Nuclear power could be the cheaper option for producing future UK energy needs while meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets, a report has found.The research, conducted by Oxera, an economics consultancy, compared the cost of the electricity output likely to be produced by the renewables programme, with an estimate of a nuclear equivalent.
It found that nuclear would need approximately £4 billion in public subsidy compared to around £12 billion for renewable forms such as wind.
Crucially, however, this figure does not include the cost of public liability insurance for nuclear power - likely to be sky high considering that a single accident can have such catastrophic consequences.
The research shows that, for nuclear, the total injection of public capital would be around £1.1 billion, while publicly backed debt guarantees required would be around £3.3 billion. On top of this would have to be added the public insurance risk.
This compares with the £12 billion cost for the renewables programme calculated in a report for the National Audit Office called, The performance of the UK renewables obligation and capital grants policy.
The research comes in a week of speculation that plans are already drawn up for an expansion of nuclear energy in the UK. The Independent claims that the Labour party is seeking backing for the construction of up to 10 new nuclear power stations if he wins the general election on May 5th.
Labour's stance could be hardened by the fact that the Conservative Party has openly backed the expansion of nuclear to meet future needs.
Speaking about climate change on Radio 4's Today programme, Tim Yeo, Conservative shadow environment secretary, said: "We believe that nuclear power can play an important role in addressing the problems provided it is cost competitive and provided it can satisfy people's concerns on waste disposal."
This last point, waste disposal, has never been fully addressed. At present there is no truly 'safe' way to dispose of nuclear waste as the waste itself can remain active for many hundreds of years.
If the cost, as yet unknown, of waste disposal were added to this equation, the economics would no doubt look far less attractive.
Of the three main parties, only the Liberal Democrats oppose nuclear expansion. Norman Baker, shadow Lib-Dem environment secretary said choosing nuclear would be like: "jumping from the fire-pan into the fire."
By David Hopkins