Secure energy

The security of Britain's supply of energy has, over recent years, become a major concern. Following a short public consultation in early 2006, the Government published The Energy Challenge which lays out how the Government plans to reduce CO2 emissions, increase energy efficiency and increase the overall security of UK energy supplies. This report contains many good proposals to improve energy efficiency across the economy, reduce CO2 emissions and dependence on imported oil.

Part of the emerging UK energy policy involves building new nuclear power stations over the coming decade. The Energy Review contains no evidence, however, to support the view that “a new build would be unlikely to increase risks to the UK” (p.121). Presumably, the Department of Trade and Industry (now the Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform) based its assessment that an increase in security risks is “unlikely” on evidence and research which takes the international security environment as the immediate context and considers how it might develop over the life-time of a new nuclear build. If so, this evidence should be included in the review so it can be scrutinised and the assessment tested. Given the potentially disastrous affects of nuclear terrorism in the UK, we at least need some evidence to support taking a probabilistic approach to this risk instead of an assessment based on the consequences.

By investing in a new round of nuclear power stations the UK would increase international insecurity and the risk of nuclear terrorism at home. We have set out the evidence for this in a series of brief factsheets by independent experts and in a submission to the Houses of Parliament Environmental Audit Committee inquiry Keeping the Lights On: Nuclear, Renewables and Climate Change.

Our factsheets address:

1) Nuclear terrorism
2) Safeguarding plutonium and nuclear reprocessing
3) The growing risk of nuclear terrorism
4) Uranium ore grade and the future of nuclear energy fuel

In March 2007, we published the final report in this series, Secure Energy? Civil Nuclear Power, Security and Global Warming. By comparing the security consequences of civil nuclear power to its possible contribution to tackling climate change, the authors of this report show that rather than making a positive contribution, an expansion of civil nuclear power would increase the risk of nuclear terrorism; make efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons harder than it already is; make a negligible short-term contribution to lowering CO2 emissions; and make a negligible contribution to energy security.

In July 2007, we also published Too Hot To Handle? The Future of Civil Nuclear Power, which argued that a worldwide nuclear renaissance is beyond the capacity of the nuclear industry to deliver and would stretch to breaking point the capacity of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor and safeguard civil nuclear power.

In the final stages of this project, and after careful consideration, in October 2007 we submitted evidence based on these reports to the heavily criticised BERR consultation on the future of nuclear power. Our submission can be downloaded here.


Publications

Nuclear Futures?
Dr. Nick Ritchie, February 2008

Secure Energy? Are the risks of new nuclear power too great?
James Kemp and Charlotte Smith (Eds), August 2007

Too Hot to Handle? The Future of Civil Nuclear Power
Frank Barnaby and James Kemp, with a foreword by David Howarth MP, July 2007

Secure Energy? Civil Nuclear Power, Security and Global Warming
Edited by Frank Barnaby and James Kemp, with a foreword by Jürgen Trittin, March 2007

Energy Security and Uranium Reserves
Secure Energy Factsheet 4, Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen, July 2006

The Risk of Nuclear Terrorism in the UK
Secure Energy Factsheet 3, Professor Paul Rogers, May 2006

Effective Safeguards?
Secure Energy Factsheet 2, Dr. Frank Barnaby, November 2005

Security and Nuclear Power
Secure Energy Factsheet 1, Dr. Frank Barnaby, November 2005