The unacceptable risk of nuclear power

4 April 2011

In elections campaigns this spring, for the Welsh Assembly and local elections in England, the Greens are the only political party opposed to nuclear power.

The Greens retain this position for a number of reasons.

1) Nuclear power will not help meet our short-term carbon reduction targets to prevent the risk of runaway climate change.

• In the UK, nuclear power provides less than 4% of our energy.
• We don't run our cars on nuclear power, and we don't heat our homes with nuclear power. And housing (27%) and transport (21%) comprise 48% of the UK's total carbon emissions.
• Globally, even if nuclear power capacity was quadrupled by 2050, the share of nuclear in world energy consumption would be below 10%. Doing that would require one new reactor to be built every 10 days from now until 2050. This would cost over US$10 trillion.

2) Nuclear power carries inherent risks, and is particularly vulnerable to the potentially deadly combination of human error, design failure, and natural disaster.

• Commenting on the risks of nuclear power, Caroline Lucas said:

"Since Chernobyl, nearly 800 significant problems and accidents have been officially reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"If a catastrophe does happen, then the impacts when we're dealing with nuclear power are potentially uniquely catastrophic.

"The nuclear industry is engaged in a massive fight-back, trying to present itself as a safe clean energy of the future. Fukushima reminds us that nothing could be further from the truth."

3) Investing in nuclear power will deter investments in renewable energy.

• In a debate on The World Tonight on Radio 4, Caroline Lucas said:

"It might sound reasonable to say that climate change is so urgent, that we need to use all energy options to address it. . But there's a fixed pot of money, and a
fixed amount of political will.

"If the government is putting money into nuclear, it gives the sign to investors that it's still serious about nuclear, then that means that money isn't going into the kind of supergrid that we need with Europe, and into serious investment in renewables and energy efficiency.

"If we were to make a serious investment in energy efficiency, properly capitalise a Green Investment Bank that would be allowed to lend immediately, put billions into, for example, a street-by-street insulation programme, or really invest in renewables, we wouldn't need nuclear. "

• In contrast to new nuclear power plants, renewable energy and energy efficiency projects are cheaper, quicker, and crucially safer, ways of meeting our energy needs and emission reduction targets.


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