Nuclear energy has been under rapid fire from industry experts this year and public perception has been shaken in the fission technology since the Fukushima disaster early this year. EDF Energy has been given permission to build "Hinkley Point C" on the Somerset Coast in the UK.
This nuclear power station is the first to be built in Britain for over 20 years. EDF has sighted the "Hinkley Point C" development next to the already existing Hinkley Point A (being decommissioned) and Hinkley Point B (due to continue producing electricity until 2016). There has historically been a lot of NIMBYism associated with nuclear power in the UK, so with the low support of public opinion is this energy type for the UK? It appears that even with high levels of NIMBYism and the world energy spotlight focusing on the reliability and safety of nuclear energy, the UK government has deemed nuclear energy reliable enough to pursue.Nuclear power has been a part of the UK's energy mix for more than 50 years and with nearly 20% of UK energy coming from nuclear energy there are clear benefits of nuclear power and the contribution nuclear power stations can make to the UK energy supply.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change states that nuclear power reduces UK national carbon emissions by between 7% and 14%, so nuclear power is contributing to the UK's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
This is now more relevant since the UK government has made a legally binding target of at least an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
This reduction commitment was made in the Climate Change Act 2008, arguably a highly bold and innovative piece of UK environmental legislation.
This shows the obvious commitment and benefits of nuclear power. However, it has been recently publicised that the UK nuclear industry is better equipped to manage the decline and decommissioning of existing nuclear plants, rather than set up new nuclear power stations. This combined with low public perception of nuclear power in the UK and high levels of NIMBYism to nuclear power, suggests an alternative energy supply may well be more favourable for the UK government.
It is popular for nuclear critics to suggest that UK energy targets can be met by renewable energies alone. The UK has got one of the best renewable energy resource potentials in the world, and subsequently exploiting its renewable resources would make a strong contribution to the UK energy needs. In particular the UK is looking at developing offshore wind farms and marine energy as it has such uniquely rich wave and tidal resources. However, renewable energy carries with it, its own levels of NIMBYism. The question for the coalition government is which source of energy to choose, or whether to continue with historic trends of using suitably mixed energy sources. Despite local opposition in Somerset that "Hinkley Point C" will destroy the aesthetic beauty of the Somerset coastline, the government is supporting, and perhaps pressuring, nuclear power in the UK with the development of "Hinkley Point C".
For more information on "Hinckley Point C" see: EDF Hinkley Point C.
Top Image Credit: Power line in front of a nuclear power plant © LeonardoRC