Brown: World needs 1,000 more nuclear power stations

A THOUSAND new nuclear power stations are needed across the world to tackle the oil crisis, Gordon Brown warned yesterday.

As the global fuel crisis deepened, the Prime Minister called for a long-term response to the problems which have sent UK petrol prices soaring to almost 1.30 a litre.

He said a new generation of nuclear reactors – to add to the 400 around the globe at present – and a 700 per cent increase in renewable energy would help "lessen our addiction to oil" and provide Britain with secure energy supplies.

Mr Brown, addressing a Downing Street conference on "fuel, food and family finances", even hinted that Scotland may have to accept the need for more nuclear power.

This places him on a collision course with the SNP government in Holyrood, which last year ruled out any new nuclear power stations, saying they were "dangerous and unnecessary".

The Prime Minister called for a "new global approach on oil and energy" and will next week meet King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer, to discuss the issue. He will also raise the matter at the G8 summit later this month.

Mr Brown said: "The latest estimate is that to meet climate change and energy requirements in the next 40 years, the world could need as many as 1,000 new nuclear power stations, with all the serious implications that has for security.

"Expansions of nuclear, like the 700 per cent growth of renewables, will lessen our addiction to oil.

"While I know there are nuclear protesters who object to any nuclear power, they need to know that if they get their way, the resulting energy crisis would bring less security, more instability, faster climate change and more poverty."

Asked by The Scotsman how many of the 1,000 power stations should be built in Scotland, Mr Brown said it was a "matter for debate" – despite the SNP's insistence that the matter was not only closed, but was one for Holyrood, not Westminster.

Mr Brown said: "We will make a decision on whether we wish to replace our nuclear power stations. That is a matter for debate within the United Kingdom."

Factors fuelling worldwide demand for oil include economic expansion in China and India, where rising incomes are creating huge demand for cars.

Mr Brown's intervention came as the UK government encouraged companies to apply to build Britain's next generation of nuclear power stations.

"This is a debate that is happening in all parts of the world," he said. "What hasn't happened is that people have got together, if you like, and understood what the future price of oil is likely to be in circumstances where we have more domestic need for energy and more efficient use of oil and therefore changes in the pattern of demand.

"We are convinced of the need to replace our existing nuclear power stations. I'm moving ahead with that policy now."

The estimate of 1,000 nuclear power stations was based, Mr Brown said, on research done by the International Energy Authority, and would see about 30 reactors open every year for the next 30 to 40 years.

Environmentalists reacted with alarm, noting Mr Brown had failed to explain what was to be done with the vast quantities of nuclear waste generated.

Jean McSorley, a nuclear campaigner with Greenpeace, said: "The idea we would be able to build 1,000 reactors around the world does beggar belief. I don't know why Gordon Brown is saying this – maybe because it makes the UK's own programme more reasonable."

She said problems with disposing of future nuclear waste would vary depending on where the power stations were built. "In the mid-1990s, there was a proposal to build 12 nuclear reactors in Indonesia," she said. "It sits on the Pacific 'ring of fire', on major tectonic plates. There is no way you can dispose of nuclear waste in a place like that."

Patrick Harvie, a Green MSP, said: "Even aside from the cost issues, this kind of policy will not solve the problem the world is experiencing with oil."

Friends of the Earth's energy campaigner, Neil Crumpton, was alarmed at the plan. He said: "Building a new generation of nuclear reactors would create more waste that is even more toxic than the current material. We need a long-term strategy for dealing with our existing waste – not plans to add to it."

Mike Weir, the SNP's energy spokesman at Westminster, said: "Gordon Brown well knows the strength of feeling in Scotland against developing new nuclear power stations, and he must also know these matters are for decision by the Scottish Government, not him."

But Labour MP John Robertson, who chairs the cross-party nuclear energy group, said the Prime Minister's call for a UK-wide solution was "factually correct" as energy policy was reserved to Westminster.

Scotland has two nuclear power stations – Hunterston B in Ayrshire and Torness in East Lothian. Mr Robertson said: "Whether we build a power station in Scotland doesn't matter as long as we have enough electricity in the UK as a whole. We have got to keep the lights on."

The Prime Minister's spokesman said afterwards there were no plans to remove Holyrood's ability to rule on planning matters, such as granting permission for nuclear power stations.

Communities 'should volunteer to take radioactive waste in return for cash and jobs'

THE UK government was last night accused of attempting to bribe communities with billions in public money to find a new burial site for nuclear waste.

Areas which offer sites would become involved in a "multi-billion-pound" project which will bring hundreds of new, skilled jobs, ministers said.

However, there are unlikely to be any successful proposals from Scotland as applications would be referred direct to Holyrood – and the SNP administration has already ruled out taking part in the scheme.

There was also a warning that the community around the nuclear site in Sellafield, Cumbria, would not accept a new burial site.

Experts said the waste would remain radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.

The aim is to bury waste up to 1km below ground level, probably in granite or clay, to minimise radioactive leaks. The waste includes matter currently in storage and dangerous substances generated by Britain's next generation of nuclear power stations, on which the government is consulting.

Hilary Benn, the UK Environment Secretary, said the site would provide skilled employment for hundreds of people over many decades.

Mr Benn said any talks with councils would be "exploratory and carry no commitment to actually hosting a facility".

It was likely to take several decades before such a waste facility was ready. An independent report has already said that a new dump was the best way of dealing with accumulated "higher-activity" waste from Britain's civil and defence programmes.

Mr Benn said: "Any community that ultimately hosts a facility will fulfil an essential service to the nation and would expect government to ensure that the project contributes to its wellbeing.

"To this end, there may be other benefits identified and developed through discussions between the community and the government." But Greenpeace's nuclear campaigner Nathan Argent said: "Nuclear waste is a financial and geological nightmare. There is no plausible solution for our existing legacy waste, let alone from new reactors, which will be at least three times more radioactive.

"This is not about finding a solution for nuclear waste. It's about bribing a community with 1 billion of taxpayers' money to bury waste in their back garden. But there's no guarantee a willing community will come forward or that they'll be able to find a geologically suitable site anywhere in this country."

Liberal Democrat Steve Webb said: "The bill for cleaning up our past nuclear waste is soaring astronomically. These sweeteners to bribe communities will increase these costs further."

Friends of the Earth's energy campaigner Neil Crumpton said: "Britain's growing mountain of nuclear waste is already costing the taxpayer over 70 billion in clean-up costs alone."

SNP MP Mike Weir said: "A nuclear dump will require exceptional security for thousands of years. What sort of blight and legacy is that?"

Why the numbers don't add up to a nuclear-free world

DAVID MADDOX

FOR anti-nuclear campaigners, the figures are stark – there are currently 439 nuclear reactors operating worldwide.

There are another 36 under construction and a further 311 in the planning or the proposal stage, clear evidence that nuclear power is not going away.

There are two main reasons for this – financial and environmental.

Political leaders all over the world are worried about the rocketing price of oil and uncertainties over supply. They are also being pressured by voters to deal with global warming and to look after the environment. The answer to both of these issues, as far as some countries are concerned, is nuclear energy.

China, for instance, only has 11 operable reactors at the moment, but has seven more under construction and another 100 at the planning stage.

The United States currently has the most, at 104, but authorities plan to build only another 32. The UK has 19, but there are no concrete plans for any more, at least at the moment.

Fuel strike set to start today, with one in ten garages hit

LAST-DITCH talks aimed at averting a four-day strike by hundreds of tanker drivers in a row over pay broke down last night.

The drivers, who deliver fuel to Shell stations across the UK, were due to start a walk-out from 6am today after nine hours of talks to resolve the situation yesterday failed.

Hoyer and Suckling Transport, the two firms involved in the dispute, said they had put fresh offers to the Unite union and asked them to suspend the strike and ballot the workers.

One in ten of Britain's 9,500 filling stations will be affected. The government has drawn up contingency plans to deal with the stoppage

Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, had appealed for both sides to focus "all efforts" on making sure the talks were successful, but also refused to rule out calling in the army to keep fuel flowing.

Meanwhile, companies have vowed not to panic-buy fuel despite the threat of a strike, according to a new survey. The poll of over 1,000 firms by the British Chambers of Commerce showed that four out of five were not stockpiling petrol or diesel.

Meanwhile, Scottish fishermen, farmers and hauliers united to call on the government to tackle the rising cost of fuel.

The Scottish Fishermen's Federation joined forces with the National Farmers Union for Scotland and the Road Haulage Association for Scotland to call for measures to alleviate the strain on their industries. The three organisations met in Edinburgh to discuss the problems.

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said: "Scottish fishermen, farmers and road hauliers are all committed to the sustainable production, harvesting and local delivery of foodstuffs

"Although each of our industries is different and requires different types of support, we have agreed to adopt a joint approach that we will be developing over the coming days in pressing the Scottish and UK governments for immediate action."

Back to the top of the page