Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Voters prefer wind farms to new nuclear reactors

Britain, UK news from The Times and The Sunday Times - Times Online

By Angela Jameson, Industrial Correspondent

THE public is sceptical about the case for building new nuclear power stations, despite concerns that Britain may have to rely on imported gas for future energy needs.
Hostility to nuclear power is matched by a belief that renewable sources of energy such as wind farms could fill the gap in energy needs in the next 20 years, the Populus survey finds.

It also indicates that politicians are not trusted to tell the truth about nuclear safety.

The poll found that 59 per cent of those questioned believe that it would be irresponsible to build more nuclear power stations while problems remain in disposing of nuclear waste.

Half of respondents go so far as to say that they believe nuclear power to be unsafe.

Rick Nye, director of Populus, said: “This research shows that, while the public understands the problems of a domestic energy shortfall, they appear reluctant to face up to some of its potential consequences.”

The findings will be a blow to the Government, which has to find reliable new sources of energy urgently, as many of Britain’s older nuclear and coal-fired power stations are due to be decommissioned.

Soaring oil prices and fears about the developed world’s dependence on Middle Eastern oil have produced a renewed interest in nuclear energy. Some nuclear experts believe that about 80 nuclear reactors will have to be built around the world in the next 10 years.

However, the Government is divided over whether a new generation of nuclear power stations should be built. Ministers have left open the question of whether new power stations should be built; an energy White Paper in 2003 neither backed the building of nuclear power stations to generate cleaner electricity nor closed the door on the option.

No decision is expected to be taken, or even discussed, until a report on how to handle existing nuclear waste has been completed.

The poll also reveals that the public does not trust politicians or energy companies to tell the truth about nuclear power. Only 1 per cent of those polled believed that ministers or MPs would be truthful about safety.

A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said that there were no current plans to build new nuclear power stations. “No decision will be taken without the fullest consultation,” the department said. “We realise the importance of having public opinion on our side.”

People are also overly optimistic about the extent to which renewable energy can replace nuclear power. Some 79 per cent of those polled back renewables as a replacement for imported energy. Just 18 per cent believe that nuclear power should replace imports.

Brian Wilson, a former Labour Energy Minister, said: “It is completely mistaken to put forward nuclear and renewables as alternatives. If we are serious about a carbon reduction, then we need both of them.

“The clear message is that the environmental case for nuclear power has to be spelt out much more clearly and campaigned for. If we don’t have nuclear power, then our carbon reduction targets are fantasies.”

Populus interviewed 1,000 adults across Britain over the past four weeks and questioned each of them on their perception of nuclear power in the UK.


Britons consumed 237.7 million tonnes of oil equivalent in 2001, an 11 per cent increase on 1990

The mix has changed since the 1970s, with natural gas replacing coal

Natural gas accounted for 40 per cent of fuel consumed in 2001, against 24 per cent in 1990 and 3 per cent in 1970. The increase is due to using gas to generate electricity

Coal made up 17 per cent of consumption in 2001, down from 31 per cent in 1990. Petroleum was 32 per cent, against 37 per cent in 1990. Renewables and waste were 1 per cent in 2001 and 0 per cent in 1990

Transport was the biggest consumer of energy in 2001, taking 34 per cent of the total
Source: DTI figures, updated in July 2005


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