Adair in Nuclear Wonderland

The 10:10 campaign's Alexis Rowell questions Lord Adair Turner's analysis of the costs of nuclear power.

Nuclear Power

By Alexis Rowell

It was quite extraordinary and utterly surreal to hear the chairman of the Climate Change Committee, Lord Adair Turner, on the radio this morning fantasising about nuclear power being a lower cost option that of offshore wind.

A 2009 Citigroup report said (pdf):

“We see very little prospect of [civil nuclear] construction costs falling and every likelihood of them rising further” and “three of the risks faced by developers – construction, power price, and operational – are so large and variable that individually they could each bring even the largest utility company to its knees financially.”

Earlier this year the European commissioner for Climate Action, Connie Hedegaard, confirmed that nuclear power was more expensive than offshore wind. She said:

“Some people tend to believe that nuclear is very, very cheap, but offshore wind is cheaper than nuclear. People should believe that this is very, very cheap.”

In 2008 Ian Jackson wrote in his book “Nukenomics: The commercialisation of Britain’s nuclear industry” that a “fully commercial price would make radioactive waste disposal far too expensive, killing the prospects of any new nuclear build programme in Britain”.

In February 2011 the Union of Concerned Scientists in the US released a study showing that nuclear power was not viable and never had been without significant public subsidies. Just lifting the limitation on liabilities (likely to rise in the UK from £700 million to £1.3 billion) would make nuclear power impossible to justify in financial terms.

Calling nuclear power low cost is pure Alice in Wonderland.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

7 Responses to “Adair in Nuclear Wonderland”

  1. LabourView

    RT @leftfootfwd: Adair in Nuclear Wonderland: writes @1010's Alexis Rowell

  2. Cian O'Donovan

    RT @leftfootfwd: Adair in Nuclear Wonderland: @1010's Alexis Rowell<<Is Alexis on Twitter? (He's everywhere else 😉

  3. Hens4Freedom

    RT @leftfootfwd: Adair in Nuclear Wonderland: writes @1010's Alexis Rowell

  4. Mr. Sensible

    I’m afraid people are going to have to accept that in order to cut our CO2 emissions, we will need a mix of different energy resources, including wind, solar, wave, hydroelectric, other renewables and energy efficiency. I think nuclear will have to play a role in this mix.

  5. jo abbess

    Left Foot Forward don't quite believe Adair Turner on nuclear power : #joabbess

  6. Ben Folley

    Adair in Nuclear Wonderland – keep dreaming that its affordable! via @LeftFootFwd

  7. E A S Sarma

    Those that say that nuclear energy is a cheaper alternative should appreciate that many cost elements in the case of nuclear energy are difficult to compute and they could be significant. Of course, it is well recognised that the cost of waste management is not accurately known and it could exceed the cost of investment on a nuclear power plant itself. Similarly, there is no accurate estimate of the cost of decommissioning an aging nuclear plant. Strictly, not a single nuclear plant has yet been decommissioned in its true sense. Again, it is possible that the cost of decommissioning is comparable to the cost of installation itself. Finally, any cost estimate for nuclear energy is going to be misleading unless the risks are internalised into the cost structure. Even though the probability of an accident in a nuclear plant may be low, its consequences are enormous. The product of the probability and the consequent damage could run into billions of dollars as in the case of Chernobyl and now Fukushima. When there is so much of uncertainty in estimating the costs which are likely to be huge, it would not be prudent for anyone to jump to simplistic conclusions about its comparative viability!

Leave a Reply