Nuclear review must consider energy options.
The Deputy Prime Minister’s comment that future nuclear power stations may be too expensive for Britain is causing fallout within the industry this week.
Speaking in Mexico last week Mr Clegg said that the coalition would be unable tosubsidiseany future safety liabilities incurred by the British atomic industry in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown.
“The Government has ordered a safety review into the nuclear industry but at the same time they have effectively destroyed the future of the solar industry. If the safety constraints for a future nuclear industry turn out to be too expensive should we really be neglecting other potential energy streams,” said Ken Moss, CEO of solar developer mO3 Power.
The Deputy Prime Minister laid the grounds for a potential collision course with the Conservatives when he said: “We have always said there are two conditions for the future of nuclear power – it has to be safe and cannot let the taxpayer be ripped off. We could be in a situation now where the potential liabilities are higher, which makes it more unlikely to find private investment. There will be no rowing back on the coalition agreement, the agreement was very clear.”
The nuclear industry has described Mr Clegg’s comments as unhelpful. Andy Horstead, of Utilyx said that Britain cannot rely of renewables to keep the lights on after 2020 and must develop the new reactors.
He went on to say that they only other low carbon alternative was gas which would make Britain dependent on imports largely from Russia.
“The potential for solar power seems to have been completely overlooked,” said Mr Moss. “Germany has developed the most sophisticated solar industry in the world and Britain’s climatic conditions are exactly the same.”
“While no single Energy Source is the ‘Holy Grail’, we do need a mix of technologies, Solar has the ability to be deployed starting immediately compared with the time lag for building of new Power Stations. If Government got behind a progressive Solar build program we calculate that over 16GW can be installed by 2020, still small compared with Germany which will be over 40GW by 2020,” said Ray Noble, of the Renewable Energy Association.
Mr Clegg’s LibDem colleague Chris Huhne the Energy Minister announced 72% cuts in the feed-in-tariff for medium sized solar developments last month.
Under the feed-in-tariff scheme, individuals or developers who generate power from solar – or other renewable sources – receive payments from their energy supplier based on how much energy they generate to off-set installation.
According to Mr Noble: “This is an absolute disaster … no new projects will start if this proposal becomes law. This industry has been strangled at birth. The huge number of envisaged new jobs will disappear.”
Leon Flaxman of Horizon nuclear said plans to build new nuclear reactors were still continuing.
Currently, the Government plans to build 10 of the next generation of reactors at a cost of £5bn each. The Nuclear Review will report initial finding in May and the final report in six months.
Dr Paul Dorfman speaking for the Nuclear Consultation Group said that the true repercussions of the Japanese meltdown would not be clear for many years and that nuclear development should be slowed indefinitely.
“Nuclear is likely to face new International Atomic Energy Agency regulations, which will most likely increase the price, and along with more public concern the building of any new Nuclear Power Station is likely to be delayed. By contrast Solar can be deployed starting immediately and with prices falling rapidly could well represent the best value for money long term with no risks,” said Mr Noble.