Frequently Asked Questions
Why can’t we continue to produce power from fossil fuels?
1. As a net importer of fossil fuels here in the UK, we no longer have security of supply which means we can’t be sure we’ll always have the fuel we need.
2. Fuel is bought at world prices, and those prices are increasing, so is the cost of the electricity we consume.
3. Burning fossil fuels such as coal and gas produces chemicals which are hazardous to health, and large quantities of carbon dioxide – CO2 – which is thought to be the primary contributor to the phenomenon of climate change.
What about free energy from renewable sources?
While the idea of free renewable energy sounds great as a concept, it is either chaotic in its availability or available only at regular but fixed times. All renewables are very dilute, and thus require huge installations to harvest them. Renewables have to be matched by conventional power generation to ensure we always have a supply. Without the generous subsidies that exist you wouldn’t see a wind farm anywhere simply because they’re not economical.
Isn’t Nuclear power dangerous?
No. Nuclear power has had a very safe history under close supervision by official inspectors. The amount of radiation to which the population has been exposed from nuclear power programme is comparable with the natural radiation received when flying for only a few hours at normal altitudes. It is, in fact, far less than 1% of that received in the course of a normal lifespan.
Exposure levels to background radiation are compared below (source: BBC website). See how small the contribution from nuclear power and weapon tests are:
Does that just leave nuclear power stations?
For the production of large, reliable quantities of electricity, yes.
Renewables, such as wind and tidal power, even growing fuel to burn, cannot provide the “base load” needed to be on tap, all the time, and in sufficient quantity.
Over one thousand turbines would replace just one nuclear reactor. In terms of biomass, to replace just one reactor at the Dungeness (Kent) power station, would mean growing willow over the whole of the county of Kent, i.e. one million acres.
What happens to all the radioactive waste from reactors?
One answer to the disposal of the very highly radioactive wastes is to turn them into glass, encase them in sealed canisters, and place them about a mile underground in solid granite where they can never be of danger to us. The technical processes are well understood, and they are comparatively inexpensive. With new generation reactors waste will be much smaller in volume as much will be “burned up” in situ and used as energy to power the reactors.
Can terrorists get into reactors and blow them up?
No. Nuclear power stations are really quite small and are made very secure against these sorts of attack. The reactors themselves are behind immensely strong reinforced concrete shields. They are constructed to be earthquake proof and resistant even to large aircraft crashing into them.