Nuclear power needs a revival
At the moment, the future of nuclear power seems increasingly uncertain. Governments previously saw nuclear power as the future, but recent events have combined to force them to change their minds. Many countries, including Germany and Japan are considering shutting down their existing programmes, with places like the UK slowing down expansion and replacement plans. Previously seen as cheap and safe, the events at Fukushima and rising building and production costs have put governments off. However, this is simply not a good thing, and for the time being, we need nuclear power.
Despite the negatives, Nuclear power is a very good source of energy. First of all, it is not a non-renewable source, meaning that it can help governments to achieve carbon and environmental targets. Countries are trying to cut down on carbon emissions, and any solid alternative to nuclear power would not currently allow governments to do this. Although nuclear power plans do emit some carbon, it is negligible. Nuclear power can also be used to power big cities, while current alternatives, such as solar power can only be used to meet local demand. Also, while it is not 100% safe, the chances of any accident are still incredibly low when the power plants are managed properly, under democratic governments and real regulators. It is important to note that this setup was not used in Japan, contributing to the accident that took place in Fukushima.
Importantly, there are currently very little alternatives that can be used. Coal and gas are still around, but with the UK having to import 40% of gas supplies. This is not a completely reliable source, and with demand increasing, the UK could be held at ransom over price increase, meaning that long term, it is not a credible plan. Shale gas does look promising, but this comes with problems, and it will be a long time before it is approved for use in the UK, meaning that it is also not a solution. Renewable sources do seem like the obvious answer, but without the ability to increase supply when demand increases, they too are limited. It’s also important to note that installation of things such as solar panels and wind turbines are very expensive and likely to be met by strong local opposition. Renewable sources in their current form are fine for local demand, such as a business or household wanting to use solar panels, but it’s certainly not the solution to an entire countries main energy infrastructure. In the future, tidal power might prove to be effective, but at the moment this is simply not the case.
Overall, it is evident that nuclear power is currently the best option, and that it is a shame that the British government is not committing to expansion plans. If managed properly, modern reactors can be very safe, with the situation in Fukushima is very different to that of the UK. It’s a shame that the government is considering gas, simply due to the UK’s need to import the fuel, making it potentially unsustainable. At the same time, renewable energy sources such as solar or wind power might seem attractive, but they are also not suitable to power the entire country. So, for the time being, nuclear is possibly the best option.