Does the UK need new Nuclear Power stations

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Throughout this piece of coursework, I will be the answering the question, “does the UK need new nuclear power stations? ” Once I have conducted the relevant research I hope to come up with an informed conclusion taking into account all of my sources upon whether establishing more nuclear power stations would be beneficial for the UK. I have attained information regarding nuclear power stations from numerous sources, one of which being, “The Independent” newspaper’s website.

The website states that Tony Blair, Prime minister of the UK, has agreed to the building of a new generation of nuclear power stations on the grounds that they would guarantee energy supplies and tackle climate change, since they do not produce gases such as carbon dioxide, which leads to global warming, unlike the traditional coal, oil and gas power stations currently in place. What is more nuclear power stations also don’t emit toxic sulphur dioxide fumes, which not only worsen the symptoms of asthma sufferers but also lead to acid rain.

However despite the fact that nuclear power stations, when working normally, release little or no radiation or radioactive sources into the environment, Tony Jupiter, director of “Friends of the Earth”, lashes back in the same article, arguing that nuclear power stations are not a safe means of tackling climate change. He also claims that it is “waste of taxpayer’s money”, since the cost of building a nuclear power station is very high as is the cost of decommissioning one, when it is no longer needed.

What is more a nuclear power station must be kept running all the time and is only 30% efficient, although in favor of nuclear power, the long term benefit is that nuclear fuel is relatively cheap. Kate Hudson, the chairman of CND, also claims that nuclear power is neither economically nor environmentally feasible, and argues that money would be better spent on sustainable energy sources, such as wind power, HEP and solar power, all of which are renewable and environmentally friendly. Others in the article argue that we should just stick to using coal, oil and gas.

However these are all finite, non-renewable resources and Britain’s reserves are now low and will start to run out in the next few decades, especially since our demands for energy are always increasing as we develop new technology. At the moment Britain imports most of its coal, oil and gas from abroad and as they become increasingly sparse, the reserves are getting more and more difficult to exploit. What is more the reliability of these supplies is also questionable, since Russia, a possible supplier, has shut down supplies to the Ukraine.

More important however is the fact that burning these fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas, which will increase the rate of global warming.. It is for this reason that Britain is now considering nuclear power, which doesn’t emit carbon dioxide or sulphur dioxide. However nuclear power too has its own problems. Many people share Tony Jupiter’s concern that nuclear power stations are not safe, since they release radioactive waste, which can remain radioactive for a very longtime and therefore needs to be stored safely for a very longtime, perhaps thousands of years.

This means that in the result of an accident radiation and radioactive materials would be released over a very wide area causing possible irreparable damage. For example in 1986 there was a nuclear accident at the nuclear power station in Chernobyl as a result of a steam explosion, which hospitalized 200 people, 31 of whom died. People also fear that if Britain turns to nuclear power, then other countries will follow suit and do the same. This not only raises the question of where will the radioactive waste be stored, if this does become the case, but it also means that the scale of possible nuclear disasters would be immense.

I obtained the core aspects of the above information from “The Independent” newspaper. I also used the “wikepedia” website, an online encyclopedia to gain more factual information about Chernobyl, while gaining scientific knowledge about nuclear power and fossil fuels from a GCSE physics revision guide. I feel that “The Independent” article is extremely reliable since it gives a clear, well structured argument for and against nuclear power so that the reader can come to their own informed decision on the matter.

Although, since it is an article in a newspaper, I must consider the fact that the aim of the article to attract readers’ interest and stir public debates on the issues raised, and so some of the information provided by the article may exaggerated. Also I don’t think quotes from Tony Balir and Tony Jupiter are completely reliable since they may taken out of context and we are unlikely to be hearing their views in full. The wikepedia website is extremely factual and thorough, and since it is an online encyclopedia, designed to give the reader all the facts, there is no problem with bias.

In this way the encyclopedia enables me to make an informed decision on the issue of nuclear power. My GCSE revision guide is also purely factually and clearly states the disadvantages and advantages of the various energy resources further enabling me to make my own informed decision on the issue. I have also gathered information from the BBC website, using an article that claims Industry Secretary Alistair Darling backs Britain’s decision to go nuclear over the next 40 years.

While the conservatives think that nuclear power should be a last resort, Tony Blair is adamant that nuclear power is the way forward in order to reduce future reliance on imports and tackle climate change. Alistair Darling also added that “safety and security would be paramount”. He also adds that nuclear power is more reliable that renewable resources such as wind, which rely upon environmental conditions. Darling did however make it clear that a “mix” of energy resources is required, which I thin is important in order to avoid the problem of the whole world going radioactive, which will lead to radioactive waste storage problems.

In the article Darling also proposes that nuclear expansion will help to cut carbon emissions by 60% by 2050. In conclusion I believe that the UK does need to look at an alternative energy resource, other than fossil fuels in order to meet our energy demands and also save the environment. However I do not agree that nuclear expansion is necessarily the way forward. Nuclear power has the advantage of being “clean”, in terms of the fact that they don’t emit carbon dioxide or sulphur dioxide, however they do release radioactive waste, which could lead to disastrous consequences as in Chernobyl.

Based on evidence gathered from all of the sources, I personally think that the answer to the UK’s energy crisis is to have a mix of energy resources as proposed by Alistair Darling in the last article. In this article Darling proposed electricity companies to provide 20% of energy from renewables – up from the current 15%, storing carbon dioxide in old oil fields, measures to cut the 7% of electricity currently used by domestic appliances left on standby and encouraging smaller scale electricity generators in addition to nuclear expansion.

I agree with Darling and think that the answer to the UK’s energy problems is too implement all of these additional measures suggested, with some new nuclear power stations as well as wind turbines, HEP and solar power, where environmental conditions are favorable, since these energy resources are renewable, use infinite resources and are environmentally friendly.


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