Much energy, little vision

The continuing espousal of nuclear power in the 2020 Vision Energy group’s report is a disappointment to say the least – though the report will contain much good sense on topics such as fossil fuel supply, if the summary released last week is a guide. The call for the ‘re-establishment of an infrastructure to build […]

The continuing espousal of nuclear power in the 2020 Vision Energy group’s report is a disappointment to say the least – though the report will contain much good sense on topics such as fossil fuel supply, if the summary released last week is a guide.

The call for the ‘re-establishment of an infrastructure to build and operate nuclear plant on strictly commercial lines’ has an air of wishful thinking about it, since building and operating plant on commercial lines is precisely what the nuclear industry in its 40 year history has been unable to do.

Nor is there evidence that the technical problems of fast breeder reactors could be easily solved. And the argument that nuclear power does not produce carbon dioxide, unlike fossil fuels, does not mean the problem of nuclear waste can be ignored.

Getting the profession to engage with the problems facing society over the next 25 years was the purpose of 2020 Vision. The working group seems to have overlooked the way in which society has given a comprehensive thumbs-down to nuclear power.

The vision for the future seems to be the same as that for the past 40 years. Renewable energy is criticised for high capital cost and unpredictability, but for nuclear this is apparently OK.

The summary report mentions the scope for improving energy efficiency in buildings and in transport but on industry it is silent. Where is the radical thinking?

Surely the engineering profession is capable of being more visionary than this.