Here is a letter from the excellent Gerry Wolff, who is one of the vanguard of nuclear power critics.
NUCLEAR TOO SLOW
The Energy Committee of MPs is right to have doubts about the speed with which nuclear power stations can be built ("MPs 'sceptical' that nuclear power stations will be built on time", 26 January). They are notoriously slow to build, no such power station has ever been built on time in the UK, and the Olkiluoto and Flamanville projects are both delayed.
An analysis published recently by the Royal Society "suggests that despite high-level statements to the contrary, there is now little to no chance of maintaining the global mean surface temperature at or below 2°C." and that "the impacts associated with 2°C have been revised upwards, sufficiently so that 2°C now more appropriately represents the threshold between ‘dangerous’ and ‘extremely dangerous’ climate change."
Given the urgency of the need to cut emissions, renewable sources of power, with energy saving measures, are the way to go. A recent report from the University of Cambridge shows that, with existing techniques, it is feasible to cut worldwide use of energy by 70%. Germany installed 8.8 GW of solar panels in 2010 alone, producing more electricity than a 1 GW nuclear power station. Several reports show that renewables can produce more energy than the world is using now or is likely to need in the future. In case anyone objects that renewables are not reliable, unplanned outages of a nuclear power station are much more disruptive than gradual and predictable changes in wind power. Variations can be ironed out by connecting renewable sources across a wide area via the planned supergrid ("UK steps up plans for European energy 'supergrid'", 21 January). And renewable sources such as hydropower, geothermal power, concentrating solar power, and tidal lagoons, can deliver power on demand, day and night.
The Energy Fair group has shown that, when hidden subsidies are stripped away, nuclear power is one of the most expensive ways of generating electricity. Instead of hitching its wagon to a failed technology, UK plc should be positioning itself to take advantage of the huge market for clean energy and conservation of energy that is now developing.
Dr Gerry Wolff PhD CEng