Uncertain nuclear future will impact power supplies

A finding by the science and technology committee that has been set up within the House of Lords has said that the lack of government strategy about nuclear research is threatening the long-term electricity prospects of the UK.

The committee found that although the amount of research being put into nuclear power is relatively low compared to other countries it is unlikely that the current plans for future reactors will change. They also said that if the UK wants to meet its reduced emission targets that it must fully embrace nuclear power.

The chairman of the committee is Lord Krebs and he has stated, “Nuclear power is not something you can just buy from another nation, our scientists must understand the latest developments in the industry and our lack of strategy means that we might not be up to ensure a secure and safe supply of energy up until the year 2050. Without a change in strategy it seems like the current plan by the government is any without credit.”

The committee stated that they want the government to immediately begin looking at nuclear power in more depth and start research and development of a new strategy looking at least a decade into the future. The committee also urged the government to rejoin the international forum, Generation Four, which is responsible for researching safer nuclear energy through the development of new reactors.

Over the next 14 years it is expected the 10 new reactors will be being constructed by the leading power companies Eon and EDF Energy. The committee have highlighted that this is not enough to meet the capacity that is needed by the country and the government must consider increasing the number of power stations constructed by 200 to 300%.

The report looked far into the future and considered the effect of the workforce ageing and that there is a lack of people being trained in nuclear science. This suggests that in the future the government will find it more challenging to recruit people to work in the nuclear power industry and they will have to rely on hiring people from abroad.

When the UK’s spending on nuclear research is compared with that of other countries it is dwarfed and much more is being spent by other established nuclear powers such as France, South Korea and Japan. Indeed, more is being spent by governments that have not actually developed a nuclear power plant, such as Italy and Australia.

A spokesperson from the government has commented, “Nuclear energy is essential if this country wants to meet its emission targets and the government is committed to developing nuclear power into the future. We will be reviewing spending and it has recently been announced that we will be investing around £500 million into training and research in the fields of nuclear fission and related energy technologies.”