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Clarke Mulder Purdie on PR, media and other random topics

Nuclear power: what’s the alternative?

Posted by markpratt on July 14, 2008

Nuclear power station

A couple of weeks ago the second seminar in the 2008 Clarke Mulder Purdie Hothouse series, hosted by spiked, took place at RIBA. The subject discussed was ‘Nuclear Power: What’s The Alternative?’

The debate focused on energy options as we seek to overcome reliance on fossil fuels. Offshore turbines and wind farms are often cited as options, but can they really provide more than a fraction of the UK’s energy needs? Video excerpts of the speakers can be viewed by clicking here.

In outlining his implacable opposition to nuclear power Neil Crumpton from Friends of the Earth evoked a recent statement from Prime Minister Gordon Brown, which declared that about 1,000 new nuclear stations will be needed around the world to fight climate change and end our global addiction to oil. Crumpton compared this to the conflict in Iraq, claiming the move to nuclear is similarly rushed and would have damaging long-term consequences.

James Woudhuysen, Professor of Forecasting and Innovation at De Montfort University began by visualising the 450,000 cubic metres of radioactive waste which has been produced by nuclear power. This mass is roughly the volume of the RIBA building and Wouhuysen suggested that human ingenuity is a great thing which is surely able to deal with this problem. He labeled Brown’s statements about nuclear power as much to an attempt to satisfy a Green agenda as any firmly held commitment to nuclear power.

Keith Barnham, Emeritus Professor of Physics at Imperial College, London and co-founder of the solar cell manufacturing company, QuantaSol spoke to deflate any nuclear enthusiasm. In response to James Woudhuysen he emphasised the danger of radioactive waste and also suggested there isn’t enough easily extractable uranium in the world to fuel a programme of building 1,000 new nuclear reactors.

Lord O’Neill, Chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) clearly and vociferously rejected this view as he explained that the NIA remains confident that the UK’s nuclear industry will prove capable of building and maintaining new nuclear power stations without government subsidies. Whilst acknowledging that renewables have a role in the energy matrix, he said that in the short and long-term the extensive use of nuclear power is essential.

The fifth speaker Frank Barnaby, Nuclear Issues consultant to the Oxford Research Group put forward that society needed to recognise that climate change is occurring and the world is heating up because of human activity. There are two possible solutions in approaching this problem; either alter society by encouraging less materialism and less consumerism or seek a technological solution via nuclear energy.

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One Response to “Nuclear power: what’s the alternative?”

  1. Chris said

    Thanks for the links. Especially the video.
    Could not find it with google.

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