June 28, 2005


Blair poised to say Yes to more nuclear power (JAMES KIRKUP, 6/28/05, The Scotsman)

TONY Blair yesterday gave his clearest signal yet that he will authorise the controversial building of a new generation of nuclear reactors.

To the dismay of environmental campaigners, the Prime Minister answered a question about new nuclear stations by casting doubt on whether wind and wave farms or solar power were viable alternatives.

Mr Blair also tacitly criticised the Scottish Executive's plan to block any new nuclear power station in Scotland, saying it was not "responsible" to rule out a new wave of generators come what may.

The current generation of nuclear stations is due to be wound down over the coming years. Hunterston B, in Ayrshire, is scheduled to close in 2011; Torness, in East Lothian, is due to run until 2023.

Such closures mean Mr Blair, who has committed himself to cutting British emissions, will have to decide over the next year how to replace their energy output.

Nuclear plants generate about 23 per cent of the United Kingdom's electricity, and 40 per cent in Scotland. Renewables account for less than 3 per cent of all UK electricity, and about 11 per cent in Scotland.

The Prime Minister pointedly noted at his monthly Downing Street news conference yesterday that other countries were embracing nuclear power for their future energy needs.

"If you look at how much we are going to need to boost renewable energy by over the next ten to 15 years, it's a lot," Mr Blair said of the prospect that such sources could remove the need to build new reactors. "I'm not saying we can't do it, but I am saying it's a huge investment and it's going to be very tough to do, and there are other countries that are going to make a different choice on nuclear power."

That appeared to be a reference to the United States, which is moving towards much greater use of atomic energy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 28, 2005 7:01 AM

Solar power? In Britain? (He reaches over and pushes his unhinged jaw shut.)
Words fail me.

Posted by: Mikey at June 28, 2005 7:36 AM

Anybody think we'll see a new nuclear power plant there or here during any of our lifetimes?

Posted by: Rick T. at June 28, 2005 9:37 AM

Anybody think we'll see a new nuclear power plant there or here during any of our lifetimes?

Out in the boonies of the desert southwest, maybe, which is kind of what they did with the last nuclear power plant built in the U.S., Palo Verde in Arizona (though thanks to the growth of metropolitan Phoenix, it's getting less and less out in the boonies every day).

Posted by: John at June 28, 2005 10:27 AM

I like Bush's idea of using closed military bases for nuclear power stations. The base in Hawthorne,NV is over 200 sq. miles in size and is on the BRAC list. As the only industry in a town of over 3000 soon-to-be-jobless people and with its location - 30 miles from the California border - it would be a great location and the community would beg for it just as it once lobbied to be the sight of the MX Missile back in the 80s.

Posted by: Patrick H at June 28, 2005 12:13 PM

If the lights go out in CA again (along with another quadrupling of the electric bill, as San Diego experienced from '99 to '01), you'll see new nuclear plants in CA pdq.

In reality, the first 'new' plant will probably be started in VA, FL, NC, GA, or AL within the next 3 to 4 years. The advanced designs are already being built in Europe and China. The inherently safe designs are almost licensed, and once the government and financial community come together witht the utilities, the building will start.

Contrary to what the press thinks, the opposition to nuclear power (since about 1995) has not been political, but mere financial risk aversion (and the problems with the spent nuclear fuel). The government (if it wants a coherent energy policy) is going to have to provide more guarantees on the money end, and the spent fuel storage problem is about 3/4 solved. Yucca Mountain cannot be stopped forever, and the political/legal battles are almost over.

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 28, 2005 1:02 PM

The application process has been started for construction of a second unit at the Clinton, IL facility. Don't know what the schedule is, however.

Posted by: jdkelly at June 28, 2005 2:26 PM

Patrick - on the same note perhaps Bush should propose a plant for Ellsworth Base in SD so Thune doesn't get crucified for not stopping the closing of that base.

Posted by: AWW at June 28, 2005 8:08 PM

A great idea.

Posted by: Patrick H at June 29, 2005 1:22 AM