Yes please? No thanks? For and against nuclear power

Today, Tony Blair signals the first step to a new generation of nuclear power stations. What are the pros and cons?


Five reasons for nuclear power

1 Generating electricity by nuclear reactors does not produce carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas causing global warming and climate change. Britain's existing nuclear power plants reduce the nation's carbon emissions by between 7 and 14 per cent.

2 Building new nuclear power stations will ensure the nation retains control over its own sources of energy. Security of supply is essential in an unstable world where oil and gas comes mainly from regions that could hold Britain to ransom by threatening to disrupt supplies.

3 Nuclear power is a mature technology and has proven reliability. It has been developed over 50 years and the latest reactors are reliable, clean and efficient. The last 10 nuclear reactors to be built in the world have been delivered on time and to their budget.

4 Generating electricity by nuclear power is a 24/7 operation and is not subject to the vagaries of wind, sun or tides. It can be fine-tuned to meet peak demand and will not let us down in the depths of winter.

5 As a founder member of the nuclear club, Britain has the expertise to operate the new nuclear-fission reactors. By building new fission reactors Britain will be well placed to develop cleaner fusion reactors.

Five reasons against nuclear power

1 Nuclear power produces radioactive waste that remains dangerous for tens of thousands of years. The Government still does not know what to do with the waste that has accumulated from more than 50 years of nuclear power. Costs of disposal are estimated at about £56bn.

2 The technology of generating electricity from nuclear fission can also be used to produce nuclear weapons. Civil nuclear power has been used for a covert nuclear weapons programme by several regimes. Zimbabwe is the latest country suspected.

3 Nuclear power stations are a target for terrorist attack. Terrorists are already believed to have targeted nuclear power plants, including one in Australia. Waste and fuel shipments are also at risk of being hijacked and used to manufacture a "dirty" bomb.

4 The legacy of Chernobyl proves nuclear power is not without enormous risk. Although the risk may be small, the consequences of a catastrophic accident are immense.

5 Nuclear power is not carbon free. Fossil fuels are needed to run the nuclear cycle, from mining the uranium ore and shipping it to Britain, to disposing of the huge volumes of radioactive waste.

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