Is nuclear power the answer to our energy needs?

The Government needs to combat climate change and meet future energy demands. But is nuclear power a viable option?

Many people feel uncomfortable about nuclear power but cannot see any real alternatives. They are right to be wary. Nuclear power is costly, toxic and not 'emission free'. It is also not needed.

Friends of the Earth supports safer, greener and cheaper solutions that can collectively satisfy UK energy requirements and cut greenhouse gases.

Why say no to nuclear?

Nuclear power is still unsafe and cannot help the UK meet its emissions targets. Here's the low-down on an energy source that a former environment minister says we need 'like a hole in the head'.

Expensive

  • Costs more than wind - In 2003 the Cabinet Office estimated that nuclear would cost more per KWh than on- or off-shore wind.
  • Waste of money - In 2006 the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority announced a clean-up bill of £72 billion - over £20 billion more than first thought and still increasing. 
  • Hits taxpayers - Construction costs are large and unpredictable with delays causing even greater losses. Windfarm costs are known, smaller and falling.

Dangerous waste

  • Highly radioactive - Nuclear waste can remain dangerous for tens of thousands of years.
  • Deadly inheritance - Nobody can agree on a safe way of storing it.
  • Accidents do happen - Leaks and near misses cannot be ruled out.

Environmentally unfriendly

  • Not green - It's toxic! Doubling nuclear power would reduce greenhouse emissions by just eight per cent.
  • Not emissions free - Mining and transporting uranium, building nuclear plants and storage of waste all produce carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Only electricity - It will not replace road fuels - currently responsible for around 22 per cent of UK carbon emissions.

Security threat

  • WMDs - uranium enrichment plants can be misused to make nuclear weapons.
  • Vulnerable - No nuclear reactor would withstand a direct hit from a jumbo jet.
  • Nowhere to hide - A successful attack could have an impact 40 times worse than the explosion at Chernobyl.

Real alternatives

  • No need for nuclear - The UK's vast renewable resources, combined with simple energy-saving approaches, provide a safer, cleaner and more sensible solution.
  • Secure supply - Renewable sources could generate more than half our current electricity needs by 2025. 25 per cent alone could be generated by Government-approved offshore wind.
  • Quick technology - All the major renewables can be implemented within three years. We'd be waiting at least ten for nuclear - too late for our climate and energy needs.
  • Bright idea - A programme to phase out inefficient light bulbs could save a whole reactor's worth of electricity by 2020.
  • Forward thinking - We could save another fifteen reactors' worth by investing in the potential for using waste heat to generate electricity.