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New nuclear power – clean, cheap, safe and popular with business

25 June 2012

The Institute of Directors (IoD) has published the second report in its Infrastructure for Business series: ‘Britain’s Nuclear Future’, making the case for nuclear energy as a clean, cheap and safe way to meet our energy needs. New polling of IoD members also shows that nuclear power remains extremely popular among business leaders, with little to no change in opinion in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident.

The report was written by Corin Taylor, Senior Economic Adviser to the IoD, Dan Lewis, Chief Energy Adviser to the IoD and Dr Wade Allison, Emeritus Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford. The full report can be read online here. Key findings include:

Nuclear power is clean: Over its life-cycle, a nuclear power station will emit around 50 tonnes of CO2 per gigawatt hour of electricity generated, compared with nearly 500 tonnes from gas and over 900 tonnes from coal.

Nuclear power is cheap: When the Government’s carbon price and the cost of intermittent supply from renewables are taken into account, we could expect electricity from a nuclear plant built in the near future to cost around £70 per megawatt hour over its lifetime. The figure for gas would be £95/MWh, for coal it would be £130/MWh and for wind the cost is even higher, around £145/MWh for onshore and £180/MWh for offshore.

Nuclear power is safe: The European Commission has identified nuclear as the safest form of electricity generation, causing relatively fewer deaths (0-0.2 deaths per gigawatt year of electricity generated) than wind (0.2 deaths), hydroelectric (0-0.8), gas (0.1-0.4), peat and biomass (1.4), coal (2.8) and oil (4.1). The threat to populations from radiation is often overstated. Despite media claims, the Fukushima accident is very unlikely to lead to any deaths at all, according to research from MIT and elsewhere.

Nuclear power is also popular: Business is strongly behind building new nuclear power stations: a survey of 1,117 IoD members, carried out in April 2012 and released exclusively with this report, found that 84% were in favour of new plants being built in the UK. In a survey taken before the Japanese Tsunami (February 2010) the figure was 85%, suggesting the accident has had little or no effect on business enthusiasm for new nuclear.

The IoD report explores the contrast between Britain, where progress towards new nuclear is slow, and other countries around the world which are moving ahead swiftly and on a large scale with new nuclear capacity. The authors investigate the type of framework which would help the UK catch up.

Corin Taylor, Senior Economic Adviser at the IoD said: “Britain is facing an energy gap with ageing coal and nuclear stations set to be shut down in the coming years. New electricity production can take years to come online, particularly at a time when energy companies are worried about investing, so it is crucial that the Government acts quickly to bridge this gap. Nuclear power is clean, cheap and safe and has to be part of the mix if we are to achieve a reliable and secure energy future.”

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