YESTERDAY’S announcement that Britain will build a €20bn-plus power plant at Hinkley Point will more than likely provoke another of the interminable rounds of anti-nuclear protests.
Some may even cite Chernobyl as an example of what might go wrong but that is as valid as comparing a spluttering old Trabant, those dreadful Eastern Bloc box cars, with one of today’s hybrid cars that barely needs a driver.
It is, of course, silly to be flippant about the great power and potential for catastrophe inherent in nuclear power generation but in a world where there are 444 nuclear reactors for generating electricity spread over 30 countries the safety record is not unimpressive. Thankfully, there has not been any great calamity other than the one at Japan’ Fukushima plant following a major earthquake and 15-metre tsunami in March 2011.
Maybe yesterday’s announcement of a three-way deal between Britain, China and France might remind us of how very dependent we remain on imported energy, a good proportion generated in the UK’s nuclear plants. Nuclear plants generate just over 10% of the world’s electricity but we still, incomprehensibly, import around 90% of our energy needs. In an ever more fraught world, where division seems more common than unity, this seems reckless, especially as we are at the end of a very long supply chain and in times of crisis would have little or no leverage to secure a supply.
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