Is nuclear power a good thing?

Last weekend I had a lovely weekend in Suffolk, enjoying the delights of Aldeburgh and Thorpeness. While there, as well as sampling some fabulous fish & chips and supping the local beer, my thoughts turned to the UK’s energy supply because, as anyone who has been to that part of the world knows, just up the coast is one of the country’s nuclear power plants, Sizewell B, with its massive white dome visible from some miles away – an important but ageing reactor.

More pertinently, just days before my visit, the UK government had granted development consent for the new Sizewell C nuclear power station.

It is hoped that Sizewell C will generate enough low-carbon electricity to supply six million homes, and that the multi-billion pound investment in nuclear power will insulate the UK from volatile energy prices, which as you all know have been a serious issue since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Carly Vince, Sizewell C’s chief planning officer, said she was “delighted” with the news, adding: “Sizewell C will be good for the region, creating thousands of opportunities for local people and businesses.”

Despite the decision, many remain vehemently opposed to the new power plant, and posters campaigning against it were legion in the local area.

Indeed, a spokesman for campaign group Stop Sizewell C said: “The wrong decision has been made but it’s not the end of our campaign.”

“Not only will we be looking closely at appealing this decision, we’ll continue to challenge every aspect of Sizewell C because, whether it is the impact on consumers, the massive costs and delays, the outstanding technical questions or the environmental impacts, it remains a bad project and a very bad risk.” 

I’m not so sure it is such a bad risk, however. Let’s face it, no energy source is without its problems, and obviously the main concern with nuclear is how to deal with its toxic waste, but really on balance it’s one of the best options we have for supplying our energy needs in a climate-friendly manner.

In fact, I agree whole heartedly with Tom Greatrex, CEO of the Nuclear Industry Association, who has called the decision a huge step forward both for Britain’s energy security and net zero ambitions.

To quote: “Sizewell C will provide reliable low-carbon power for more than 80 years, cutting gas use, creating thousands of high-quality, skilled jobs, and long-term investment and opportunity up and down the country.”

“Sizewell C will be one of the UK’s largest ever green energy projects, and this decision significantly strengthens the pipeline of new nuclear capacity in Britain.”

Hear, hear!

Marcus Alcock, Editor

Emerging Risks