The Fukushima nuclear power plant remains a toxic disaster more than two years after an earthquake and tsunami struck coastal Japan. While damages to local residents and the environment are still being discovered, the 2011 catastrophe did compel the rest of the world to take a long, hard look at the true risks of nuclear power and many countries announced they would begin to phase out their nuclear programs in favor of renewable alternatives. That lesson seems to have been lost on British leadership, however. This morning, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that his government has signed an agreement with French-owned EDF to build the first new British nuclear power station in 20 years. According to the Guardian, Cameron hailed the agreement as “a very big day for Britain” that “would kickstart a new generation of nuclear power in the UK.”
Cameron’s statements are troubling for two reasons: first, Britain has already fallen far behind in its mission to meet the EU’s strict renewable energy targets. Only three percent of the UK’s energy currently comes from renewable sources, such as sun and wind, compared with a European average of 12 percent. Britain previously committed to producing 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 – something most government officials say has no chance of happening.
Cameron’s glee over the new plant should also be troubling for Brits since it moves the country backward, rather than forward. Instead of redoubling efforts to boost renewable energy technology, as Germany and other countries have done, Britain seems content to stick with business as usual despite the numerous risks associated with nuclear energy. Fukushima proved, yet again, that nuclear disaster can strike at any time, and that even with all of our best efforts it’s impossible to protect people and the environment once a leak has occurred. The new nuclear power plant takes more funds from the future and invests them in technologies of the past.
According to the Guardian, the new reactors, which will cost £14bn, won’t start operating until 2023 (that’s if they’re built on time) and will only run for 35 years. Even when operating, they’ll only be capable of producing seven percent of the UK’s electricity – equivalent to the amount used by five million homes. Maybe that’s one reason British journalists have started to refer to Cameron as “out of touch with reality.”
Via The Guardian