Monday, 9 November 2009

New nuclear

As regular readers may be aware, I do not share my party's black-and-white (I think the in-word is "Manichaean") view of nuclear power generation. For me, it has long been an economic decision, taking into account the costs of waste disposal. At present, it is still cheaper to build fossil-fuel-powered power stations, but with the long-term trend of increases in oil, gas and coal, and the emergence of one or two standard nuclear designs, bringing down design-and-build costs there, the lines on the graph may cross over in the foreseeable future. Moreover, any new coal-fired power station should have exhaust gas capture built in, which will add to the cost.

However, Labour is wrong to use the power of the state to impose nuclear power stations on a population. It is illiberal. It is reminiscent of state socialism - or rather, since the beneficiaries will be private companies - of the dictatorships of Hitler & Mussolini.

So far, the Conservatives have made no comment on what is, admittedly, just a trail so far. But I imagine they hope that this problematic decision will be out of the way by the time of the general election? There was some muttering from the Conservative benches against the Infrastructure Planning Commission. Will the Conservatives make a manifesto commitment to abolish this fast-track planning procedure, as, I trust, the Liberal Democrats will?

Update: In the debate on Ed Miliband's statetement in the House this afternoon, Dr Greg Clark confirmed for the Conservatives that they are right behind the Infrastructure Planning Commission. He is on all fours with John Prescott, who used the opportunity to sneer at elected planning committees. There is, though, one point on which Dr Clark (and David Heathcoat-Amory) are clearly correct on: the avoidance of hard decisions by government over the last dozen years, which has meant a drift to the current emergency where the only solution is a nuclear one, and based on just two designs, both of which have been questioned technically.

The drift also lost hundreds of jobs on Anglesey because nobody was prepared to give assurances about a constant electricity supply, which an aluminium smelter requires, at the time when the operator required them. I note that Wylfa is one of the sites proposed for replacement nuclear power stations.

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