The UK government has been planning the development of a ‘next generation’ of nuclear power plants in the region for some time, but with the price of renewables falling quickly and the costs of nuclear rising, it is looking increasingly likely that the plans will have to be scrapped. There are also other important issues with new nuclear; such as the unresolved issue of nuclear waste, and its dependence on further subsidies, which will be illegal under European Union rules.
Investors have been steadily dropping out of plans. The British utility company Centrica is just the latest to pull out of the program. This week it wrote off £200 million ($315 million) while doing so, following on the heels of previously involved German utilities. In order for the program to still go forward, the government would need to break “two important electoral pledges and may face legal challenges that it intends to breach European Union subsidy rules in guaranteeing a minimum price for nuclear power,” Climate Central writes.
Construction delays and rising costs seem to be an issue with new nuclear everywhere in the world, not just the UK. The French nuclear industry, arguably the strongest in the world, has been facing numerous delays in the development and construction of its new power plants, and rapidly rising costs.
“Centrica’s chief executive, Sam Laidlaw, said the company had pulled out because the project was more costly and extended further into the future than had been planned four years ago. Together with its partner, the French government-owned EDF, Centrica has spent close to £1 billion ($1.5B) on the project and is now writing off its 20 percent share of £200 million ($315M), concentrating instead on renewables and natural gas for electricity generation.”
Essentially, renewable clean energy technologies are a better choice than nuclear in every way. They are cheaper, faster to build, don’t create radioactive waste, aren’t as susceptible to environmental disasters, don’t require the same level of safety measures, and have far more public support. At current rates of growth, renewables are predicted to generate more electricity in the UK than nuclear by 2018, and expected to power 1 in every 10 homes in the UK by 2015.
And the issue of nuclear waste is still very much a problem in the UK. Just last week, the Cumbria County Council rejected the government’s plans to dump the nation’s nuclear waste in the Lake District. And with no alternative locations put forward yet, the government still doesn’t know what to do with its growing nuclear waste. The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee just released a new report on Monday detailing (and highly critical of) the rising costs of dealing with such waste.