Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Going Nuclear

I'm delighted today to see that the Government is proposing to build a new wave of nuclear reactors. Opposition to nuclear energy has always been one aspect that makes it very difficult for me to take the environmental movement seriously. After all, if pollution of the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels is going to lead us to environmental catastrophe, then surely all viable alternatives must be used as far as is possible?

The fact is that there is neither the reliability nor the popular will to transfer all energy generation to renewable sources. Were wind farms sufficiently able to supply Britain's energy needs, I would happily see turbines in place of reactors. Could we utilise HEP more effectively, I'd be arguing for cascades. But the fact remains that trying to rely on renewable energy sources cannot meet Britain's growing energy demand. And if we want to stop the more heavily polluting sources of energy, building new nuclear sites seems the only responsible means of fulfilling demand.

Sometimes I do wonder what planet the environmentalists live on. The fact is that renewable energy sources cannot, in the short-term, help the aim of substantial reduction in carbon emissions. And it is that, after all, which is supposedly the major problem. Nuclear reactors have their risks - but at the same time, do we have reason to doubt their management? Do we really staff them with Homer Simpson clones who don't have a clue what they are doing? 19% of our electricity supply today is nuclear, and we haven't had a meltdown in Britain yet. Is it just a matter of time, or do the environmentalists throw about the word Chernobyl in a spate of fear-mongering?

Fear-mongering, of course, is the stock-in-trade of the green lobby. No-one doubts that searching for reliable renewable energy is highly desirable. The capability right now doesn't exist. By the time new reactors are built, it would still seem doubtful. Either we can meet the rise in demand through nuclear energy, or we can look to fossil fuels again, or the environmental lobby can piss off every single person in this country by demanding compulsory energy shortages until scientific advances are made. And yet again, they'd be engaged in a self-defeating process. Is all they want to do to crow from the sidelines? If not, then they'd better start making more positive contributions to the debate. I'm getting sick of their endlessly negative tone.