Name of MP
House of Commons
London, SW1A 0AA
A nuclear-free future: if Germany can do it, why can’t we?
Following the nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, the German government announced a new energy strategy that is nuclear-free, affordable and sustainable. This strategy is based on:
• A fundamental commitment to energy reduction
• Focussed investment to ensure that renewables and energy storage are fit-for-purpose in the 21st century
• Proven bridging technologies such as combined heat and power (CHP)
• A decentralised power supply tailored to regional/local needs
This decision was underscored by courage, vision and commitment. To quote from its report, Germany’s Energy Turnaround – a collective effort for the future:
“Germany must walk down the path of phasing out nuclear power with the courage to try out the new, with confidence in its own strengths and with a fixed procedure in place for monitoring and guiding the process.…Germany could demonstrate to the international community that phasing out nuclear power is the opportunity for a high-performance economy.”
In contrast, the UK government’s position on our energy future, and nuclear energy in particular, is short-sighted and cavalier. Its determination to secure a new generation of nuclear power stations is undermining our environmental and economic future by:
• compromising the viability of the renewables sector (ref.1)
• increasing the risk of contamination from low-level radiation emissions and from long-term nuclear waste storage (ref.2)
• making us hostage to higher energy bills under the monopoly of the Big Six providers (ref.3)
All this, for what? Nuclear is proving to be too expensive, can’t be built on time to bridge the energy gap and leaves us with the unresolved issue of long-term waste storage. Meanwhile, renewables are getting cheaper and bring major job benefits. Germany is already reaping the benefits of its energy revolution. To continue to support a nuclear renaissance in the UK defies economic and moral logic.
As one of your constituents, I request that you do everything in your power to stop the government from continuing its pro-nuclear course and that you actively oppose any further backdoor subsidies such as ‘contracts for difference’ and caps on insurance and decommissioning liabilities.
I would also request that you to ask the Energy Secretary two specific questions. Please note that DECC’s standard ‘we need nuclear in the energy mix’ response is not acceptable:
• If Germany can commit to a nuclear-free energy roadmap, why can’t the UK?
• In the US, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has suspended all final licensing decisions on new nuclear power plants following a Court of Appeals ruling that spent nuclear fuel stored on-site over many decades poses a ‘dangerous, long-term health and environmental risk’(4). Now that this ruling is in place, how can the UK government allow EDF Energy to construct EPR reactors knowing that spent fuel will be stored in the same way?
1) From Ecotricity’s website: ‘Green energy company Ecotricity has told MPs on the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee that draft Energy Bill proposals are currently a choice between nuclear power and renewables.
‘Giving evidence at the Houses of Parliament, Ecotricity Director, Asif Rehmanwala, said plans to entice big energy companies to invest in building new nuclear plants by artificially raising the price paid for electricity (known as ‘Contracts for Difference’ or CfDs) – could in contrast put small suppliers out of business, dissuade new entries into the market and impact the building of new green energy.’
2) The spent fuel from the proposed EPR reactors is so toxic that it must remain at the nuclear power plant for more than 100 years before it can be safely moved to longer-term storage. To date, there is no scientifically-proven safe site for the long-term storage of high-level nuclear waste.
Reference: Generic design assessment UK EPRTM nuclear power plant design by AREVA NP SAS and Electricité de France SA https://consult.environment-agency.gov.uk/file/2037374 (page12)
3) The recent increase in the carbon floor price was designed to make new nuclear a more attractive investment opportunity. This is already having an impact on energy prices. The proposed ‘contracts for difference’ will commit the government to paying a long-term fixed price for energy – a cost that will be borne by the taxpayer for many generations to come.
And finally Germany’s pledge to meet its carbon reduction commitments:
“The question whether the climate problem is bigger or smaller than the problem caused by nuclear accidents is one that gets different answers by different people: but basically there is no sensible basis upon which the two can be compared.
“What remains is the ethical responsibility to combat climate change just as earnestly as ensuring the safety of the energy supply. The climate targets for the period during which nuclear power will be phased out have already been established. There is no clear evidence for the conjecture that these goals would be compromised by phasing out nuclear power.”
Reference: ‘Germany’s Energy Turnaround - a Collective Effort for the Future’ presented by the `German government’s Ethics Commission on a Safe Energy Supply.