Energy futureThe future of U.K. nuclear power

Published 11 April 2008

In the last five years the U.K. government has been vigorously promoting the idea of a U.K. nuclear power revival; John Hutton, Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform explains the government’s policy

Yogi Berra once said: “Ah, nostalgia; it ain’t what it used to be.” Speaking of nostalgia: Remember the anti-nuclear Aldermaston Marches? The first Aldermaston March took place exactly fifty years ago, on 4-7 April 1958 shortly after the launch of the U.K. Committee for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). People marched for four days from Trafalgar Square to the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment close to Aldermaston in Berkshire, to demonstrate their opposition to nuclear weapons. After 1958 the marches were held annually until 1963, but their direction was reversed — that is, the started in Aldermaston and ended in London. There were revivals of the march in later years, and those in 1972 and 2004 drew especially large crowds. The marches were typically led by left-leaning Labor Party politicians such as Michael Foot and Nye Bevan and academics such as Bertrand Russell.

We have written several stories about the revival of nuclear power in the United Kingdom in the past five years, a revival which is especially notable becasue it has been championed by a Labor Party government. Those who remember the Aldermaston Marches, and the close association of the Labor Party with them, must surely be surprised. Surprised or not, here are edited extracts of a recent speech by John Hutton, Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, on the issue of nuclear power in the United Kingdom:

The revival of U.K. nuclear power has the potential to be the most significant opportunity for the U.K. energy economy since North Sea oil and gas. To become number one in the world for new nuclear investment, we must first learn the lessons of the past by addressing the concerns raised during our consultation on safety and security, waste management, costs, and the perceived impact of nuclear power on investment in other low-carbon technologies. We must also recognise and address the realities of an ageing workforce in our nuclear industry.

So what steps are we are already committed to taking?

In Washington recently I signed the U.K. into membership of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). This will enable us to play our full international role in promoting the benefits of civil nuclear power. It will help us gain invaluable expertise and experience on a range of critical issues such as infrastructure assessments, security and