The nuclear fast breeder reactor programme should be revived, according to an Engineering Council report which casts doubt on the future of renewables.
The 2020 Vision Energy Study Group’s final report is to be published in the New Year by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers on the Engineering Council’s behalf.
A summary document says: ‘It is necessary to re-establish an infrastructure to build and operate nuclear plant on strictly commercial lines.’
It describes Government targets for renewable generation as ‘ambitious’, saying: ‘The high cost and unpredictability of supply will determine whether renewable energy in gigawatt quantity is going to be worthwhile in the UK.’
The final report has yet to be completed. But Dr David Noble, IMechE engineering director, said: ‘All 13 members of the group felt very strongly that nuclear has to be taken seriously as a national asset.’
He added that because known uranium reserves stood at only 30 years supply, ‘this led the study group to believe there needs to be a significant rethink of the fast breeder programe.’
Peter Johnson, past president of the Institute of Energy and chairman of the sub-committee on energy conversion processes, said the future role of nuclear ‘is more and more accepted among informed opinion. We are past the point where people think it isn’t on.’
The problem of nuclear waste had been ‘highly exaggerated’, he said.
John Large, an energy consultant, said that: ‘The nuclear industry has examined all types of thermally moderated reactor in the past 30 years and exhausted the possibilities.’
He added that the safety issues of fast reactors had not been solved.
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