More than 350 edie readers have so far responded to a question asking whether the UK Government should continue to support and subsidise nuclear power.

Exactly 85.8% answered “Yes – it is a low-carbon form of energy and displaces coal and gas capacity”, while 14.2% answered “No – it is expensive and dangerous and requires funding that could be used to subsidise truly ‘clean’ energy”.

The results differ drastically from the Government’s survey of public opinion in April, where 39% supported the use of nuclear energy, 21% opposed it and 36% were indifferent.

Circular Ecology’s Craig Jones, who recently wrote about the controversial Hinkley nuclear plant for edie, suggested the disparity could be the result of an educated pragmatism from sustainability professionals.

He said: “I believe it’s more likely they accept nuclear, rather than outright support it. This is likely in recognition that it provides a large amount of low carbon electricity to the UK (20%) and that replacing this without our carbon emissions going up would be a considerable task.”

Low carbon alternative

The edie survey results are also surprising given the reaction to the approval of planning permission for the Hinkley nuclear reactor in Somerset.

Friends of the Earth called that a “shocking decision” which funnelled money away from truly clean energy, while Greenpeace described the deal as a “a world record sell-out to the nuclear industry at the expense of taxpayers and the environment.”

However, Jones’ mind-set is perhaps more reflective of industry professionals. He added: “I don’t believe nuclear slows down the uptake of renewable energy.

“Nuclear provided 19% of the UK’s electricity in 2012 and 20% in 2013. At the same time renewables have grown from 11% in 2012 to a new record of 15% in 2013.

“Over the same one-year period the share of coal and gas went down by the same value of 4%. This implies that nuclear is not slowing down the uptake of renewable energy, but that renewables are taking away share from coal and gas.”


The Energy Technologies Institute, which aims to accelerate the development of low-carbon technologies, also welcomed the poll’s results.

A spokesperson told edie: “New nuclear should form part of any future mix alongside other low carbon and renewable power sources such as bioenergy, carbon capture and storage, offshore wind, gaseous systems along with improved efficiency of vehicles and heat provision for buildings.

“The ETI does not advocate today a single detailed blueprint for a future energy system. We do not yet have knowledge from the development and real-world scale adoption of most of the technologies discussed. Nuclear is the closest to being a tried and tested low carbon energy supply, but it is some time since we built a nuclear power plant in the UK.

“Currently, all low carbon energy sources require some form of carbon price to compete against unabated fossil fuel production.  In the absence of a meaningful carbon price, subsidies act as a proxy.  It is pleasing to see that this is recognised by such a high number of respondents.”

According to the World Nuclear Association, the UK currently has 16 reactors generating about 18% of its electricity and all but one of these will be retired by 2023. Three new generation plants – including the station at Hinkley Point – are expected to start coming online in 2023, with an estimated 19GW of capacity.

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Brad Allen

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