Going nuclear


This month's Spectator Business contains an excellent special feature on the alternatives to oil. Andrew Kenny's article on the benefits of nuclear power is particularly good. I'd really recommend reading the whole piece, but the following section makes a particularly important point:

Perhaps the most curious of all the objections to nuclear power is to do with waste. By any rational assessment, the disposal of waste is an overwhelming advantage for nuclear over all other sources of energy. Nuclear waste (from spent fuel) is tiny in volume, solid, stable and easy to store so that it poses no threat to man or the environment. It becomes less and less radioactive as time goes by. By definition, a radioactive element is one that does not last forever: it has a finite half-life. Non-radioactive elements or stable elements do last forever; their half-lives are infinite. The lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and other toxic heavy metals in coal waste all last forever, yet they are spewed into the air we breathe or dumped on to open ash tips with scarcely any protest. Coal waste is vastly bigger in mass per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced than nuclear waste. Solar photovoltaic power units use ‘deadly’ materials such as cadmium and lead that remain dangerous forever. I have never heard of any plan for storing ‘deadly’ solar waste until the end of time. I’m not saying it’s a serious problem. It is not. But still less is nuclear waste.

Well, I think it's about time we got on with it. As Kenny's article shows, nuclear energy is abundant, cheap and secure. And The private sector is now willing to invest tin new nuclear build in the UK (without subsidy); they just need the government to sort out the planning approval, otherwise progress will take many more years.