Should Newham embrace a nuclear future as our city’s energy demands increase?

13:00 22 September 2016

Theresa May has backed the nuclear power station at Hinckley Picture: Hannah McKay/PA Wire

Theresa May has backed the nuclear power station at Hinckley Picture: Hannah McKay/PA Wire

This week we ask whether we should embrace a nuclear future.

Theresa May has given the go-ahead for a nuclear power plant at Hinckley Point C in Somerset.

Some say the green light at the controversial site shows the necessity of nuclear energy as the population in east London increases.

But opponents say it’s economically irresponsible and a mistake that ignores lessons learned by past disasters.

Left, Natascia Servini and, right, Attic RahmanLeft, Natascia Servini and, right, Attic Rahman

Natascia Servini, Newham Liberal Democrats

Theresa May’s first act as PM was to delay the Hinckley Point C nuclear plant, only to reinstate it after lobbying from China.

The problem is not just Hinckley C. It’s the UK’s overall nuclear energy policy. The UK shouldn’t rule out nuclear-generated electricity for ever; it may turn out to be cheaper and safer.

But nuclear energy now isn’t a good option for our economy.

First, it’s wildly expensive. The costings of the project show the extra electricity cost per household on electric bills will be £1,000.

Second, the costs are usually unclear due to uncertain construction costs. Hinckley Point costs have doubled since inception and we can be sure they’ll keep rising, especially as it’s using the untried EPR design.

Third, the cost of safely dealing with nuclear waste and decommissioning is almost never fully factored into electricity supply costs – the taxpayer foots the bill. Just look at what happened in the Magnox case.

Fourth, governments must agree a high price of supply from the plant over many years, sometimes decades, which reduces competition.

Nuclear power, while cleaner than fossil fuels, is too expensive. Better to stick with lower cost supply and invest more in a wider range of new, cheaper and greener power sources.

Attic Rahman, East Ham Conservative

The nuclear white paper 2008 set out the UK’s commitment to reducing its carbon emissions under the Kyoto protocols and the Climate Change Act 2008.

With most of the UK’s first generation nuclear power stations set to be decommissioned by 2020 and coal plants closing, our energy needs can’t be met with existing wind and solar technology.

The challenge for more than a decade has been to meet increasing demand with the loss in capacity (estimated to be a third) while maintaining security over energy supplies.

In November 2015, the government announced nuclear energy will play a central role in its policy.

Hinkley Point C has been prominent in the news due to opposition over cost and safety, with national security concerns surrounding the roles of the French and Chinese governments.

Theresa May, having initially put a hold on the 2013 agreement, has concluded the pros outweigh the cons because there is no viable alternative to meet demand.

A nuclear future is the only viable answer with today’s technology.

Post-Brexit, it’s time for the UK to embrace the future with ambition, courage and optimism.

Energy security is one of many questions that need to be addressed and the government is doing just that.

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