Thursday, April 20, 2006

Nuclear Energy Finds New Support in U.K.

On three separate occasions in January, I called British newspapers to task for fronting public opinion polls about nuclear energy while failing to note that these polls were conducted prior to Russia's natural gas shutoff to Eastern Europe only a few weeks before.

Well, after waiting for a few months, a poll was published Monday that shows public opinion beginning to move the other way:

The U.K. public's support for nuclear power has increased as energy prices soar, with almost half of Britons saying they're not prepared to pay a premium for electricity from renewable sources, a study said.

About 36 percent of Britons want to see an increase in nuclear capacity, compared with 29 percent one year ago, according to a study by KPMG International and YouGov Plc. About 45 percent of the survey respondents said they want a reduction in nuclear power, less than the 58 percent last year.

(snip)

About 44 percent of the survey respondents said they weren't prepared to pay ``a single penny more for green energy,'' the report said.

U.K. power prices doubled last year after an increase in the cost of fossil fuels, such as oil, coal and natural gas.
For more from AFP, click here.

Despite this, some politicians are still anxious for the U.K. to become overdependent on Russian natural gas:
Britain, Europe's biggest natural-gas consumer, should meet its electricity needs by relying on gas-fired plants and renewable energy sources in the next decade rather than nuclear power, a group of lawmakers said in a report released Sunday.

Nuclear power plants would take too long to build, would need subsidies and may cut carbon emissions less than expected, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee said.

The answer to meeting the country's energy needs lies in many more gas- powered electricity plants and increasing sources of renewable energy like wind and waves, said the 81-page report, titled "Keeping the Lights On."
As if one winter at the mercy of Russian foreign policy and natural gas price volatility wasn't enough.

Thankfully, there are some folks in Britain who are talking sense:
[Harlow MP Bill]Rammell criticised the committee's outright rejection of nuclear power as "not sensible" and said the need to cut carbon emissions had to be considered.

"I think we would be crazy to rule out nuclear power," he said. "We're going to be a net importer of gas and electricity before long. With that and the need to tackle climate change, I think we're right to look at it as an option."
And in Scotland, organized labor is lining up in favor of nuclear energy too. Here's hoping this is the start of a trend.

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