Wednesday 30 January 2013

The iron law that will sink nuclear energy

The news that Cumbria County Council has vetoed a further search for a deep nuclear waste storage site is definitely a setback to reviving nuclear energy in the UK.  The fears that people might imagine the Lake District and immediately think of radioactive waste - rather than Wordsworth or Ruskin, for example - was enough to put the dampeners on things.

It isn't the final nail in the nuclear energy coffin.  The authorities have proceeded so far without a solution to long-term waste storage, so I expect they will carry on.

But there is an iron law which will provide that nail, and when civil servants at the Treasury understand it, I think the nuclear programme will quietly disappear.

It is this.  The costs of renewable energy generation are bound to fall over the next generation, as technical advances and new manufacturing methods kick in.

But the costs of nuclear energy are bound to rise.  Every time there is a scare about the safety of nuclear waste storage, and every time there are nerves about terrorists getting hold of plutonium, the precautionary and security costs will rise, and probably enormously.

It depends on how you compare the costs of nuclear and renewable generation but, these days, they seem to be level pegging.  The iron law says they are bound to go different ways.

I humbly submit this as a whole new Boyle's Law.

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