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Liberal Democrats shun nuclear in election manifesto

A generation of nuclear power stations would be rejected under plans laid out in the Liberal Democrat election manifesto, published this week.

The party rejected the idea of building a series of new nuclear power stations, and instead set out plans to invest in renewable energy and low carbon technology. It also plans to adopt the ICE’s style of UK Infrastructure Bank (UKIB) to fund new schemes.

New nuclear was a “far more expensive” way of reducing emissions than promoting renewable energy and energy conservation, the manifesto said.

As part of a year-long “green stimulus plan”, the Liberal Democrats said it would use £3.1bn of public money to create 100,000 jobs and set Britain on the path to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050, by investing in key green sectors to stimulate private investment.

To achieve this, they set a target for 40% of UK electricity to come from “clean, non-carbon-emitting sources” by 2020, which would rise to 100% by 2050 - a more ambitious aim than the government’s hopes to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the same deadline.

The ICE welcomed the declaration. “We are encouraged by plans to accelerate the up scaling of renewable sources of energy and goal to achieve completely clean electricity generation by 2050,” said ICE director general Tom Foulkes.

However, he added that a move away from new nuclear raised issues. “We have concerns about the exclusion of nuclear energy which is a proven low carbon technology,” Foulkes said. “We consider it a vital part of the energy mix if the UK is to achieve a low carbon energy network.”

Echoing a commitment made by both Labour and the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats aim to establish the new UKIB to help drive major infrastructure.

“We will set up an Infrastructure Bank to direct private finance to essential projects such as new rail services,” the manifesto said.

The party also pledged to invest up to £400M in refurbishing UK shipyards to manufacture offshore wind turbines and other marine renewable equipment. This investment represents a considerable jump from the £60M allocated by the government in last month’s Budget to help ports develop facilities for offshore wind turbines.

Elsewhere, the manifesto proposes a “switch from road to rail by investing in local rail improvements,” to encourage greater use of public transport. However, these improvements to the network would only be made through cutting the major roads budget, which Foulkes said “would only lead to further deterioration of road surfaces”.

Like the Conservatives, they advocate the abolition of the Infrastructure Planning Commission established by the government earlier this year to cut long-winded public inquiries into planning applications.

Instead, the Liberal Democrats said they want to “return decision making to local people” which the ICE thought would deter private investment and as a result have “an adverse impact on the delivery of nationally significant infrastructure”.

Further plans include cancelling an additional runway at Heathrow and any other airports in the South East, encouraging a “huge increase” in the use of anaerobic digestion to help end landfill, a crackdown on waste from water companies and compulsory meters for areas with water shortages, as well as a plan to reduce flooding by stopping major housing developments in areas of risk.

network would only be made through cutting the major roads budget which Foulkes said “would only lead to further deterioration of road surfaces”.

Infrastructure Bank

Echoing a commitment made by both Labour and the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats aim to establish a new Infrastructure Bank to help drive major infrastructure – including high speed rail development.

“We will set up an Infrastructure Bank to direct private finance to essential projects such as new rail services.”

2010 Liberal Democrat manifesto

Their manifesto pledges: “To sustain jobs and growth for the long term, we will set up an Infrastructure Bank to direct private finance to essential projects such as new rail services.”

Like the Conservatives, they advocate the abolition of the IPC established by the government earlier this year to cut through long-winded public inquiries into planning applications.

Instead, the Liberal Democrats said they want to “return decision making to local people” which the ICE thought would deter private investment and as a result have “an adverse impact on the delivery of nationally significant infrastructure”.

Further plans include cancelling an additional runway at Heathrow and any other airports in the South East, a crackdown on waste from water companies and compulsory meters for areas with water shortages, as well as a plan to reduce flooding by stopping major housing developments in areas of risk.

Readers' comments (10)

  • ICE director general Tom Foulkes said: “we have concerns about the exclusion of nuclear energy which is a proven low carbon technology. We consider it a vital part of the energy mix if the UK is to achieve a low carbon energy network.”

    Agreed that nuclear power is a vital part of the energy mix ...... to spread the supply base and remove risk. However, although nuclear is commonly claimed to be low-carbon there remain doubts as to whether the energy audits were fully inclusive of construction and decommissioning, or whether they just focussed on operational aspects.

    Chris Johnson

    Gloucestershire

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  • Like the Green Party, the Lib Dem's continue to disadvantage us. The energy supply and costs problems we now suffer from are to a great extent due to this prejudice against nuclear power and their meddling with our engineering expertise and capabilities. Equally guilty are their views on wind turbines and other renewable energy sources, suitably massaged by supplier and sales lobbyists. For the future of the UK, history should not be allowed to repeat itself - in the present climate, particularly, we cannot afford it!

    By all means let us concentrate and have a major effort on energy efficiency and usage of wasted heat from existing steam turbine power stations, but lets have a proper review and get the best options possible for the U.K. Strip out the subsidies in any total power costs analysis to obtain meaningful total cost comparisons between all available systems, and publish the results of this level playing field appraisal.

    The trick is to develop the cheapest energy supply systems which also meet environmental requirements for climate change but with the climate debate re-starting on a far more thorough, openly debated, better presented and prior agreed basis.

    As for wind turbines, allow for the typical wind turbine power availability of 25% or less, the frequent no output/maximum power demand situations that require very significant parallel base load alternative systems to be costed into any wind turbine scheme, and the significant power losses and additional costs of major new power distribution systems required, particularly for the intended North Sea power collection and distribution systems, together with the costs of security, access and maintenance of remote and isolated units.

    Extensive U.K. R&D funding on energy supplies during the last 10-20 years would have been a more beneficial subsidy for the U.K. economy. A continuation of the U.K.'s 1950's leadership in nuclear power generation capability and knowledge with such effective R&D funding away from its nationalised and military based starting point should have been allowed and would have already given developed designs geared to minimising de-commissioning costs and waste disposal. This would have been only one of many identified developments and advantages for the U.K. and U.K. companies.

    As it is subsidies and ideology have distorted both the market and our engineering foresight - all to our detriment. Let us at least learn the lessons and not continue to make the same mistakes.

    The tragedy now is that, due to the likes of the Lib Dems, Greens, CND and others, we have lost our 1950's leadership in nuclear power stations ; have diverted funds into more costly and less efficient renewable energy systems; and now have to re-learn a lot about nuclear power station engineering. France has a secure and developing nuclear industry because they followed the right national strategy. French companies are now lining up for UK and many other country's nuclear power station contracts - something that we should have been geared up for. Perfidious Albion has lost this battle, but lets not lose the next one!

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  • The silly season is with us again. I thought the Llib Dems were harmless until they joined with other parties and took over Leeds City council. What they propose is dangerous. We need energy in the UK. A broad base supply is essential. What more can I say?

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  • Don Pratt is absolutely correct in saying that a broad base supply is essential. Yes, that appears to include significant nuclear whether some of us like it or not.

    I am not sure if Peter Wilson is criticising subsidies for some energy sources but advocating the most heavily subsidised of all - nuclear.

    Yes we need nuclear to broaden our power generation sources and reduce supply risk, despite its expense. However it is wrong to pretend that nuclear needs no subsidy, it never has been cheap and has always required billions & billions of pounds' subsidy.

    Past experience shows that we must take 'the next nuclear generation will be competitive" promises with a very very large pinch of salt (and there might not be enough salt under Cheshire for that).

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  • Adding carbon capture and storage to existing coal burning power stations and new ones could increase electricity prices by 50%. The investment in Sheffied Forgemasters and our close cooperatiion with Westinghouse could see the UK being the worlds largest supplier of nuclear powerstations. Sellafield could reprocess wase and create new fuel. We must lead. Start building now. Yes, even in my back garden.

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  • I disagree with Tom Foulkes about the need for nuclear energy. He is apparently not yet aware that all energy needs can be met by renewable energy to meet climate change concerns. Nuclear energy sustains technology and opportunity for nuclear weapons, which should be eliminated as soon as possible. Engineers should refer to http://alternativeenergy.procon.org/sourcefiles/falsepromises.pdf
    Peter Ravine

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  • The nuclear industry appears to be trying the same trick with its green audits as it has been doing for the last 50 years with its financial audits : ignoring construction & decommissioning and only auditing the generation part of the lifecycle. That is why I questioned Tom Foulkes' assertion about nuclear being vital for a low carbon energy network. Stick to broadening the generation base. Ignore false claims about costs (why would the prospective builders be seeking more billions' subsidies otherwise) and question low carbon claims.

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  • Not one of the three major parties seem to have done the sums! Currently circa 20% of UK power is electricity with 75,000 MW installed. Heating, mostly gas, accounts for about 40% of our energy; an electrical equivalent of 150,000 MW. Transport, mostly petrol and diesel, account for the remainder. This would have an electrical equivalent of a additional 150,000MW. The total for All energy, in electrical terms would require an installed capacity 375,000 MW.

    By a near unanimous vote Parliament decreed to cut CO2 by 80% by 2050. Whilst they have not said of how this was to be done, but the general assumption is that "green" electricity would take over. Thus we would need to have a minimum installed capacity 300,000 MW (80% of 375,000 MW).

    The more wayward say that wind will provide this power but ignore the fact that even offshore wind produces only 30% of the turbines rated capacity. Thus to get 300,000 MW from wind we would need to install 1,000,000 MW at a cost of £3 million per MW or £3,000,000,000,000 in total. In addition major suppliers e.g. E,On say that to guarantee supply 90% BACK-UP to the 300,000 MW is needed (from conventional power).

    Carbon Capture has yet to be proved feasible for the quantities involved. Marine power is promising but is massively expensive and we have only limited untapped hdro.

    So we either resile form the CO2 commitment or use nuclear. The alternative is the killing off what remains of our industry and having the lights go out.

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  • My further comment on the inputs to date.
    I don't know what subsidy is required for nuclear power. I do know what we have never been provided with, and the ICE and other Engineering instutions should have pressed for this years ago, and that is an honest total life cycle energy and power cost comparison for all the various power generation systems available - all without any subsidy.
    What concerns me most is the historic negligence and apathy of many parties of letting go of UK leadership in nuclear power and many other national engineeringh assets and the consequent resultant massive loss to the U.K.
    I have little confifdence that, short of some revolution, we will never re-capture any of this engineering and manufacturing eminence - all to the UK's detriment!
    Urgent action and a proper debate is needed now. Our low percentage "polution and CO2" production is so low, and our economic outlook is so bleak that I believe a pre-occupation with global warming may be a luxery we cannot currently afford - and thateven supposes we get a properly substantiated and scientific compelling argument as to global warming from the AWG fratenity.

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  • There is no logic in criticising some forms of power generation (such as marine, above) for being massively expensive, simply in order to advocate (also massively expensive) nuclear power.
    Nuclear's big justification remains that of broadening our energy base to reduce supply risk. That is good enough reason. No need to pretend nuclear isn't heavily subsidised. It was, is and will be for the forseeable future. If the argument for nuclear subsidy hinges on green-ness what happens if the green audits are indeed shown to have omitted construction & decommissioning carbon footprints etc and the green justification collapses? Broadening the base to reduce risk is the only justification but it is a reasonable one.

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