Intelligent Energy

UK forges ahead on nuclear power

UK forges ahead on nuclear power

Posting in Design

Fukushima? What Fukushima? Germany and Italy are walking away from nuclear in the wake of Japan's disaster. Not Britain. The UK today named 8 sites suitable for new nuclear power stations.

It’s spelled "nuclear", but today, you could also go with "nuklear".

Government ministers in the United Kingdom this morning identified 8 locations around the country that they say are suitable for the construction of new nuclear power stations by 2025.

The government had announced plans for 8 new nuclear stations last October, but did not at that time pinpoint where. Today’s announcement moves the country closer to an energy future in which nuclear will continue to play a strong role.

The UK is relying on nuclear as well as offshore wind and other technologies to help hit future carbon emission reduction targets.

By identifying the 8 sites – all on the location of existing nuclear power stations – the UK is moving in the opposite direction of Germany and Italy, which both recently abandoned nuclear in the wake of March's Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, caused by an earthquake and tsunami.

Two of the UK’s 8 sites, Hinkley Point and Oldbury, sit along the Bristol Channel and its Severn Estuary in Britain’s southwest, where the 49-foot tidal range is the second highest in the world, after Canada’s Bay of Fundy.

Tsunamis are not common in Britain. According to the Guardian, three have struck the UK over the last 10,00 years. But the last two, in 1607 and 1755, hit Britain’s southwest.

Following Fukushima, the UK’s Energy and Climate Secretary Chris Huhne commissioned a safety review of Britain’s nuclear plans. Last month, the report issued an interim all-clear. It noted that a Fukushima-like series of events would be unlikely in Britain, and that the new British nuclear power stations would use safer designs than those in place at Fukushima.

Final approval for the eight plants is not fait accompli. As the BBC notes, "The plans will be debated and voted on in Parliament, but ministers are hopeful that, with a pro-nuclear majority in the Commons, they will win the argument."

For those of you up on British geography, the six sites in addition to Hinkley Point and Oldbury are: Bradwell, Essex; Heysham, Lancashire; Sellafield, Cumbria; Sizewell, Suffolk; Wylfa, Anglesey and Hartlepool, which resides ceremonially in the county of Durham but which is a unitary authority.

Photo: Train4tradeskills

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Mark Halper

Contributing Editor

Mark Halper has written for TIME, Fortune, Financial Times, the UK's Independent on Sunday, Forbes, New York Times, Wired, Variety and The Guardian. He is based in Bristol, U.K. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure