The Government have issued a clear commitment to developing the UK’s capacity to produce nuclear energy in 2018. But some MPs are reticent and believe the UK is being taken down the wrong path in its pursuit of a robust sustainable energy mix, writes Dods Monitoring’s Josh White. SNP MPs such as Drew Hendry and Alan Brown have encapsulated this sentiment in the Commons, often taking the Government to task on its decision to prioritise new nuclear over alternatives such as oil and gas and offshore wind. In July, Hendry accused the Government of locking consumers into paying £20 to £40 more per megawatt-hour and called on it to end to its “obsession with outdated, expensive and risky nuclear”. Does Hendry have a point? – At face value, there’s no denying that a higher strike price represents a poorer public investment, however, new nuclear stakeholders have argued that the reliability of nuclear energy sets it apart from other cheaper forms of low carbon energy production. Whilst it is evident that the Government seeks to establish new nuclear as the core of the future UK energy mix, the success of the project will be contingent on finding a solution to the pressing issue of what to do with nuclear waste – a problem unique to nuclear energy. Currently, the solution on the table is to store radioactive waste in geological disposal facilities (GDFs) that would be built with community consent, bringing jobs and skills to affected localities whilst also providing a long-term solution to the legacy of higher-activity waste. The scheme failed to gain traction in 2008 when it was launched as part of the Managing Radioactive Disposal white paper, however, with the need to transition towards a sustainable energy mix greater than ever, the Government is hoping the initiative will attract more support and uptake this time around.
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