May 17th, 2006

Blair backs nuclear plans – but…


At the CBI dinner, the PM says nuclear power is back with a vengeance. An odd choice of words… like it’s pay-back time and a lot of people are gonna to get hurt.

This determined winner-picking pro-nuclear stance based on the PM’s gut feel and advisers’ hunches shouldn’t really surprise anyone – he’s been saying it for months. The trouble is that it is quite difficult to actually do this, even if it is what the Prime Minister wants. At least not without completely upending the energy market as currently designed – and that may take rather more time than the PM has.

The most sensible thing to do here is to establish a reasonably reliable long-term market-based price signal that rewards carbon reductions or penalises carbon emissions and see which technologies best deliver the objective.

A worrying thing is the narrow focus on nuclear – it might be useful, it might not – but it is very far from the whole story. Though it provides about a quarter of electricity, nuclear heat only amounts to about 8% of primary energy.

How we perform on climate change and energy security really depends on what happens with the other 92% – notably transport energy. See energy mix in the diagram.

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