Lady Judge: Five years ago, a tsunami caused by a huge earthquake hit Japan and overwhelmed the nuclear plant at Fukushima. I recently revisited the site of the accident as deputy chairwoman of the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s nuclear reform monitoring committee. Five years on, it is clear that Fukushima is still a traumatic memory for the Japanese people. However, after thorough investigation and much soul-searching, Japan is still committed to nuclear energy, as it is the most reliable form of base load, low-carbon energy that exists. The Japanese are also keen to help us in the UK to replace our ageing fleet of nuclear plants. You might be surprised by this; media coverage of nuclear energy would suggest that there is only one show in town, Hinkley Point C, a collaboration between the French and the Chinese. Hinkley Point is a huge project that promises to provide power for 50 million homes. It should not be considered in isolation, however; it is just the beginning of our nuclear renaissance in the UK. The plan to focus on building large reactors was originally conceived before Fukushima, while I was chairwoman of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, and when fossil fuel prices were expected to keep going up. Large nuclear plants, however, are expensive and take a long time to build. In the interim, one answer is small modular nuclear reactors. Being small is useful because they can be built in one place and transported to another, such as the site of one of the coal plants that we are in the process of shutting down, or even an industrial park. Modular, in this context, means that more plants can be added easily on an existing site. The flexibility and lower cost of small reactors is a way of getting greater private sector involvement, without the more complex financing arrangements needed for a larger plant.
Times 11th April 2016 read more »