As we head towards COP26, CND’s scientific adviser, Dr Ian Fairlie, addresses the claims that new forms of nuclear power production can be part of the solution to the climate emergency.
In recent months, the outpouring of pro-nuclear media stories and newspaper articles has been incessant and increasing in the UK. Not anywhere else in Europe, just the UK. This is partly due to leaks and promptings from UK government officials that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is considering direct government support for nuclear projects. It’s a bit of a feeding frenzy for the nuclear industry, so we should not take these stories too seriously, and should see what action, if any, actually transpires.
It is also partly due to current concerns about the rising price of gas: people are looking to see if there are other cheaper sources of energy. However any new nuclear developments, if they ever occurred, would be decades away, and much more expensive than gas.
Another issue is the concern over accelerating climate change, shortly to be addressed at COP26 in Glasgow in November. This is a serious matter and must be tackled but anyone who unwisely thinks that nuclear is a solution should google “uranium mining” and “nuclear wastes”.
That said, I have received several queries as to whether small modular reactors (SMRs) and/or advanced nuclear reactors (ANRs) could help address climate change and global warming. The short answer is no, they are highly unlikely to help, partly because the nuclear industry has a relatively large carbon footprint compared to the renewables, and partly because of the inherent problems with SMRs and Advanced Nuclear Technologies (ANTs).
For those readers who wish to learn more, Pete Roche and I have written a six page report debunking the many myths of SMRs and ANTs – available here.
This article first appeared on the CND website.