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For Great Britain, New Nuclear is a Gold Medal Strategy to Reduce Carbon Emissions

U.K. Nuclear Stations
Our Olympics-hosting friends in Great Britain appear poised to react to climate change in a manner far different from the Germans, who have designs on abandoning nuclear energy. Britain Gives Nuclear a 2nd Chance, the New York Times informed this week, and in it we learn that the British government "is courting the nuclear industry." Why? "It wants low-carbon power to aid its goal, enshrined in law, of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050."

Those numbers caught my attention. They sounded eerily familiar to me, and for good reason. I work a lot with communicators at California's two nuclear energy facilities, San Onofre and Diablo Canyon. In 2006, then Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act.

Under that law California must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 -- about 30 percent. And the state must redeuce GHG by 80 percent over 1990 levels by 2050. Most ambitious -- and the moreso seeing as how California can't turn to new, carbon-free nuclear to aid its cause: it's got a moratorium on building new nuclear.

Like the U.S., Great Britain today derives nearly 20 percent of its electricity generation from nuclear power. Perhaps it's coincidence that Great Britain and California have identical GHG reduction targets, but how they'll respectively achieve them over the next few decades couldn't be different. EDF Energy, a British subsidiary of Electrice de France, envisions enough new nuclear power at the Hinkley Point site to power 5 million homes, according to the Times.
"The [British] government has identified eight sites, all with existing nuclear facilities, where new ones might go . . .

"I've bet my career on it, so I think that it is pretty high," Nigel Cann, Hinkley Point's manager, said of the probability that the plants will be built."
Siting new coal apparently is as problematic for the British government as it is their American counterpart. No doubt the Brits will broaden their conservation and efficiency strategies, but when it comes to making big gains with cleaner air, this nation of mighty winds appears poised to go with new nuclear as the best option. That we'll have two vastly different air-improvement approaches with new electricity generation, with identical targets and time frames, will make for fascinating energy policy watching in the years ahead.

"Nuclear investment is a high priority for the [British] government," said Charlotte Morgan, a nuclear expert at the law firm Linklaters. "There are few alternatives to deliver the U.K.'s long-term energy needs, its low-carbon commitments and security of supply."


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