Keith Parker answers your questions – Part two

In this week’s readers’ Q&A session, Ketih Parker, chief executive of the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association, answers your questions.

In this post, he discusses whether the events in Fukushima are a good advertisement for the industry, what are the full costs of nuclear power and what the industry’s view is of renewable power.

Earlier, he answered your questions on what constitutes a nuclear meltdown, whether there is likely to be a public backlash against nuclear in the UK and how the industry should now change.

Next week, Amrita Sen, oil analyst at BarCap, answers all your oil-related queries. Email questions to by the end of Sunday, March 27th.

But for now, over to Keith:

Advert for nuclear power

If the Japanese nuclear installations survive the biggest ever recorded earthquake followed by the mother of all tsunamis, is this the best advert for nuclear power you could imagine?
Gwylim Rhys-Jones

Well I’m not sure it is an advert, but it has shown the strength of nuclear power plants and the fact that they can withstand a lot.

This is a very serious accident, and should not be downplayed in any way. But it is worth noting that the well known environmental campaigner George Monbiot has said that he has changed his view on nuclear power because:

Atomic energy has just been subjected to one of the harshest of possible tests, and the impact on people and the planet has been small.

Despite the media attention over the nuclear situation, the tragic events in Japan are above all a humanitarian crisis, not a nuclear disaster. It is important that we do not completely lose sight of that.

Also, don’t forget that because of the natural disaster people are without electricity at the coldest time of year. Half of the Japanese nuclear fleet of 55 reactors are generating much needed electricity to those in need.

Full nuclear costs

Can you provide a complete inventory of all hidden costs which are not directly included in the price consumers pay for nuclear power, such as insurance, decommissioning and the storage of spent fuel? And in the event of an accident such as we are seeing in Fukushima, who would pick up the costs to clean up?
Kelly Rigg, executive director
, Global Campaign for Climate Action

The government has made it clear that there should be no hidden subsidy for nuclear power, and the industry fully accepts this. Nuclear new build will be entirely funded by the private sector.

New nuclear operators will be required by law to put money aside from day one to pay for the eventual decommissioning costs of their new power stations, as well as their full share of waste disposal. Similarly, unlike most other industries, they are required to take out third party liability cover and that liability is on a ‘no-fault’ basis – victims do not need to prove negligence. Compensation must be paid in all cases – even earthquakes.

Nuclear v renewables

Is it true, as Westminster and Whitehall figures have told me, that the nuclear industry has been lobbying politicians behind the scenes to minimise the amount of renewables in the UK energy mix?
Jeremy Leggett, chairman, Solarcentury

Solar panelsThis is news to me. We have always argued that in order to meet the energy needs and climate change objectives of the UK, nuclear energy must remain part of the solution – but nuclear is only one element of a mix that should and does include renewables. We work closely with Renewables UK, and regularly share platforms with them, including at last year’s party political conferences, and we discuss low-carbon opportunities from a position of mutual respect.

Nuclear safety

Are currently operating nukes hardened for an electromagnetic pulse attack which might knock out power and backup power in a large region creating circumstances, perhaps worse, comparable to Fukushima?
Eric Bam

It is my understanding that an electromagnetic pulse attack results from a nuclear bomb – so I’m afraid I can’t fully answer your question.

However, what I can say is that nuclear power stations are some of the most robust buildings ever built and are designed to safely withstand extreme events, both manmade and natural. Although the UK is not a seismically vulnerable area, our power stations have significant earthquake and flood protection.


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