Security of supply is a fundamental consideration in deciding our energy future and has a major bearing on the price we pay for electricity and on whether we have enough to meet growing demand. An inevitable consequence is higher electricity bills for the consumer.
Today, the majority of our electricity is produced by burning fossil fuels, in particular coal and gas. The UK is already a net importer of these since we don’t have enough of our own. It is estimated that by 2015 we will have to source three-quarters of our needs from abroad.
This means we are less able to control the price of electricity in the UK and remain hostages to the future of oil and gas markets if we are unable to agree a price for the fuel we import.
Gas fired power stations now account for the largest proportion of electricity generation in the UK and we already import 40% of the gas required. But with growing competition in the European market for limited Norwegian resources, it is not surprising that Norway has already indicated that future supplies will only be available on a strictly commercial basis. And since other major gas exporters are not always allies (Russia, Iran, Algeria) we cannot always rely on secure supplies.
An obvious example of uncertainty in gas supply relates to the fact that the EU has been at the centre of dispute between Ukraine, and Russia, from which the EU imports one third their gas supply. It could easily be prevented from being piped through the Ukraine .
+ Uranium is in plentiful supply from friendly countries, eg Australia, Canada, and isn’t linked to market prices for oil and gas.
Uranium is approximately as common as tin or zinc in the Earth’s crust, occurring in most rocks and also the sea. Its distribution in commercially extractable concentrations is shown below. The reserves are price-sensitive, but there is little doubt that these are sufficient to last mankind for a century or more.
In addition, smaller quantities of fuel are required per unit of electricity generated and the cost of the fuel is a far smaller proportion of the cost of the electricity produced. With the nuclear option therefore, we have far stronger control over the price we pay for our electricity and above all better security of supply to meet growing demand.
Figure shows worldwide distribution of identified uranium supplies (in tonnes of metal) recoverable at $130 per kg of uranium [c/o Radiation and Reason by Wade Allison].