This letter was originally published in The Financial Times on 21/06/2021.
By failing to consider alternatives in a balanced way, Admiral Lord West of Spithead (“Investment in UK nuclear power is long overdue”, Letters, June 18), treats UK energy policy as an arena for asserting individual partisan affections for nuclear power. Yet the challenge is not about parading obscurely driven personal enthusiasms, but rigorously comparing how to achieve environmental targets as rapidly, securely and cost-effectively as possible.
Here, even government assessments have quietly long been clear that new nuclear power is hopelessly costly, slow and otherwise problematic. The comparative performance gap with renewables is growing rapidly. The National Grid has for many years abandoned notions of “base load” as “outdated”.
So why should nuclear still command such intense attachments, as if it were an end in itself? That it is a Navy man who urges this, might be a clue? Parliamentary evidence documents how a major hidden driver of official UK nuclear commitments are pressures to launder consumer electricity bills into supporting a wider national nuclear skills, education and research industrial base, without which nuclear-propelled submarines become unaffordable, if not unbuildable.
Governments of other countries like France and the US are open about these motives. It is time for some candour about the real interests driving expensive nuclear support in the UK.
If not, it will not just be carbon targets and energy futures that are undermined, but British democracy.
Professor Andy Stirling
Dr Paul Dorfman
Energy Institute, University College London
Dr Phil Johnstone