Nuclear Energy - Depletion Scotland viewpoint
The UK currently has 31 operating reactors at 14 power stations which provide approximately 25% of the electricity in the UK.
Would be slow and costly. In the UK, to replace all current oil and gas fired electricity generation would require more than doubling of nuclear power generation capacity - i.e. 40 more reactors of current average capacity.
In the UK, we can expect to see relaxation of planning regulations and extension of existing nuclear power sites to avoid delays in bringing new nuclear generation capacity online. Scotland is in the front line for new nuclear development proposals as has been evident in recent news reports (Herald/Scotsman newspapers, 25/03/05).
Transport and Agriculture?
Andrew Oswald, an economics professor at the University of Warwick, worked with an energy consultant, Jim Oswald, to calculate how much additional electricity the United Kingdom would need to switch to fuelling transportation needs with hydrogen. They estimate that the United Kingdom would need either 100,000 new wind turbines or 100 new nuclear power plants to supply this level of hydrogen. According to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea, there are about 30 million petrol and diesel fuelled vehicles on the road in the United Kingdom.
The replacement of oil with electricity in 700 million plus vehicles over the whole world constitutes a technical and economic problem of mammoth proportions. To do this, a better storage solution than batteries is required and the best option currently feasible would be using hydrogen, but this is a technology which is unproven in the mass market.
Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI)?
When plant construction and decommissioning, waste storage, uranium mining etc are taken into account, EROEI for nuclear power is fairly low. The use of nuclear technologies in modern industrial societies has largely been subsidised by the availability of cheap fossil fuels. Decommissioning the current UK fleet of nuclear reactors in a reasonably safe manner will be difficult in a world where oil energy is scarce.
For all these reasons, the advisability of turning to nuclear power as a panacea solution when energy shortages arise due to the depletion of fossil fuels must be seriously questioned.
1. The Party's Over, by Richard Heinberg, New Society Publishers
2. Can nuclear power provide energy for the future: Would it solve the CO2 emission problem, by Jan Willem Storm Leeuwen and Philip Smith, 15 July 2004
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