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Secure Energy? Civil Nuclear Power, Security and Global WarmingEdited by Frank Barnaby and James Kemp, with a foreword by Jürgen Trittin, March 2007
All over the world the fortunes of civil nuclear power are rising – why? Many in government hope that nuclear power would increase energy security during a time of unstable competition and surging demand. Some claim nuclear power is key to reducing global CO2 emissions. For others, it is because nuclear power opens the door to nuclear weapons.
This report asks two questions: how dangerous is nuclear power? And can it help reduce CO2 emissions? The short answer to the first questions is ‘very’: nuclear power is uniquely dangerous when compared to other energy sources. For the second question the answer is ‘not enough and not in time’.
By comparing the security consequences of civil nuclear power to its contribution to tackling climate change, Oxford Research Group shows that rather than making a positive contribution, an expansion of civil nuclear power would:
Finally, we show that nuclear power is not needed. Germany, for example, already has more generating capacity from wind-power than the UK nuclear component and within six years will have more solar powered capacity too. If the UK pursued similar policies, by 2020 wind would provide well over six times and solar three times the generating capacity major industrial players estimate for a nuclear new build.
Much of the disagreement about the security implications of nuclear power revolves around whether the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation and terrorism risks can be managed. Using the most recent research we can show that these risks will become much harder to manage. In fact a new nuclear build would take us into uncharted and very dangerous waters.
For these reasons the UK government should apply the precautionary principle. The Prime Minister’s justification for replacing the UK’s nuclear weapons system is based on a version of this principle: in an uncertain future in which new nuclear weapons states and state sponsored terrorism are likely, the ‘ultimate deterrent’ is justified. Judged against this argument, building more nuclear power plants is self-defeating in the extreme: they would increase the very threats nuclear weapons are intended to deter.
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