Nuclear power should be kept open as an option for the UK’s future energy needs, and its viability could be secured by a tax on carbon emissions, an influential independent study advised this week.
The Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering report argues that a 1p-per-kW/hour tax on electricity generated from fossil fuels would make it economically viable for private nuclear operators to build four twin-reactor power stations over the next 20 years, to replace power stations due for closure.
`That’s what the Government can – and should – do,’ said Sir Eric Ash, the Royal Society treasurer who wrote the study group’s report. `But the Government is not prepared to even mention the word “nuclear”.’
Without measures to encourage nuclear development, the report said, the industry’s installed capacity would drop from the present 14GW to 4GW by 2020 and disappear by 2040.
While the report supports the development of renewable energy sources, it is sceptical of the Government’s targets for cutting CO2 emissions through these and energy efficiency alone.
The report says there is scope for the industry to do `more to share the benefits with those who perceive themselves to be carrying the risk’ – a policy that it says has been successful in France.
It adds that planning procedures for nuclear projects would have to be simplified. The formal planning inquiry has become `a forum for almost ritual rehearsals of the full panoply of arguments’ over nuclear power, the report says.
It highlights the public inquiry into the last nuclear development in Britain, the Sizewell B power station in Suffolk, which took three years and cost £30m `before the first sod was turned’. This, it concludes, shows that the system `cannot be seen as an appropriate form of decision making’.