Economics of nuclear

P Field proposes replacing our old nuclear reactors with new ones on existing sites, and asks ‘Surely the green lobby would allow that?’


P Field proposes replacing our old nuclear reactors with new ones on existing sites (Letters, 28 January) and asks ‘Surely the green lobby would allow that?’

The answer is probably an emphatic ‘no’. The nuclear safety, security, decommissioning and waste storage issues can all be reasonably addressed to a greater or lesser extent (assuming the green lobby can be reasonable). But that is not the end of it.

If nuclear could provide a carbon-free future quickly, that would be preferable to climate change. But nuclear is just two per cent of world power (four per cent in the UK) and at that tiny rate has but 60 years’ fuel reserves left.

This relegates nuclear to ‘part of the mix’ where it has to compete with other ‘solutions’. Costs and cost/benefits (cost per tonne carbon saved) within the mix become major considerations. Yet the vision presented of nuclear remains inflexible, as is the economics which requires 60 years of flat-out work to pay for construction.

An analogy — imagine a decision to build a fleet of DC4 passenger planes in 1938, delivery by 1948, and still going today hauling freight. Now imagine another outcome because you chose the AW27 Ensign instead.

Dr Martin Rodger

Poole, Dorset