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UK Government needs to correct its short sighted approach to nuclear power

13 October 2011

The UK government urgently needs to establish a long-term strategy for its planned programme of new nuclear power, according to a major new report issued by the Royal Society.   The report highlights the fact that despite the government’s commitment to nuclear power in the UK, there is still a short sighted approach to planning and research.

The government needs to make this strategic judgement now, to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and burdening future generations with a legacy of spent nuclear fuel.  It is also essential that the UK’s new nuclear power programme takes into account the UK’s civil stockpile of plutonium, which is the largest in the world.
 
Speaking at the Royal Society, where he confimed the government's commitment to new nuclear power, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said: "This government is determined not to pay for the present by mortgaging the future.  We are determined to do the right thing for the long term."
 
Roger Cashmore FRS, Chair of the Royal Society working group and Head of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), said: “The last time any UK government articulated a coherent long term plan for nuclear power was in 1955.  We need to ensure that government and industry work together now to develop a long-term, holistic strategy for nuclear power in the UK.  This must encompass the entire nuclear fuel cycle, from fresh fuel manufacture to disposal.  Indeed, spent fuel can no longer be an afterthought and governments worldwide need to face up to this issue.”

The Royal Society's report, which provides a comprehensive examination of the risks and relationships presented by current global and national developments in nuclear power, also recommends that: 

  • The ultimate priorities of any civil nuclear power programme should be not just safety, but also security and non-proliferation.  These three aspects cannot be considered in isolation from each other and must be at the heart of all nuclear power.  Fukushima has shown that we cannot be complacent about nuclear safety; the same attitude needs to apply to security and non-proliferation.
  • The nuclear industry needs to step up and take responsibility for nuclear security.  UK site licensing conditions need to explicitly address security and safety matters in an integrated way.
  • Global nuclear regulation for security and non-proliferation is fifty years out of date and needs to address the changing geography of nuclear power as well as a fully multinationalised nuclear industry. 

Watch Sir Paul Nurse's introduction and Chris Huhne's speech at royalsociety.tv.