You want nukes? Build ’em yourself, says U.K. government

Bravo for the British government, having decided that if anybody wants more nuclear power stations, he or she is going to have to build them without help:

“The government is not going to build a single nuclear power station,” Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling told a committee of members of parliament.

“We are not going to contribute to the cost of it,” he said, rejecting suggestions the government might have to give money to get companies to make the multi-billion pound investments.

“If the energy generators don’t want to build them, then there won’t be any,” he said.

All of the country’s existing nuclear power plants were paid for and built by the state, but none has been built since the power sector was privatised in the 1990s.

According to Wikipedia, the U.K. currently has 24 nuclear plants that supply about a fifth of the country’s power, though not a single one has been built since the British government privatized electricity.

The risks involved in nuclear power (mainly business risks, I mean, given the staggering costs — not environmental or BOOM! risks) are so great that stations generally require at least some government support, even if it’s only a publicly supported locked-in contract to buy the power. But it should be obvious that if the state has to kick in, it’s not a good way to serve consumers. Just getting rid of waste and decommissioning old reactors is guesstimated to cost 70 billion pounds.

The Reuters story goes on to note that the cheapest large-scale generation available in Britain is gas-fired power plants, suggesting that the alternative to state-supported nuclear expansion is greenhouse-gas-emitting gas plants. To even things out a bit, the state will definitely have to find an effective scheme to put a price on carbon emissions.

(Via Grist Mill.)

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