Select Committee on Environmental Audit Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Research Councils UK


  1.  Research Councils UK (RCUK) is a strategic partnership that champions the research supported by the eight UK Research Councils. Through RCUK the Research Councils are creating a common framework for research, training and knowledge transfer. Further details are available at

  2.  This memorandum is submitted by Research Councils UK on behalf of three of the Research Councils (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council) and represents our independent views. It does not include or necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Science and Technology (OST). RCUK welcomes the opportunity to respond to this inquiry from the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee[350].

  3.  This memorandum provides evidence from RCUK in response to the questions outlined in the inquiry document, in addition to supplementary views from:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Annex 1
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Annex 2

  4.  The summary below provides an overview of cross-Council activities of relevance to the inquiry. The comments provided by EPSRC in Annex 1 give a summary of current and future energy R&D activities. The comments provided by NERC in Annex 2 address the specific issues raised by this inquiry.


  5.  The Research Councils recognise the importance of conducting technology-based research in the context of a thorough understanding of markets, consumer demand and public acceptability. Within this context, cross-Council initiatives, in collaboration with stakeholders, play a crucial role. NERC, EPSRC and ESRC received additional funding in the 2002 Spending Review to launch the "Towards a Sustainable Energy Economy" Programme (TSEC). This Programme was designed to adopt a multidisciplinary, whole systems approach to energy research. The earmarked budget for TSEC was £20 million of core funding plus £8 million for renewables previously earmarked following the Performance and Innovation Unit Review of Energy R&D in 2001. TSEC is a broad-based programme of research which aims to enable the UK to access a secure, safe, diverse and reliable energy supply at competitive prices, while meeting the challenge of global warming. In the event, in order to support a number of high quality projects that could not otherwise have been supported, the TSEC budget was augmented to a total of £36.5 million with the additional funding drawn from Research Council baseline funding and from the additional £30 million funding for energy announced under the 2004 spending review. The TSEC budget was allocated through five funding streams: establishment of the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC); Managing New Uncertainties; Keeping the Nuclear Option Open; Renewable Energy, and Carbon Management. Further information on these programmes can be found in paragraphs 6, 7 and 8.

  6.  The initial aim of TSEC was the establishment of the £14 million UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) which is focussing on addressing system-level issues in energy generation, supply and consumption, and which will act as the hub of the new National Energy Research Network. EPSRC, together with NERC and ESRC, are funding the UKERC, with EPSRC providing £5.6 million, NERC providing £5.2 million and ESRC providing £3.2 million over an initial five year period. The main research grant started in October 2004. UKERC is already forming a focus for networking the UK energy research community and for developing international collaboration. For example, UKERC hosted a workshop on innovation and research for energy within the official programme of events marking the UK presidency of the G8. UKERC's research and networking remit covers demand reduction, future sources of energy and energy infrastructure and supply with energy systems and modelling, materials for advanced energy systems and environmental sustainability as cross-cutting themes. UKERC also features a permanent meeting place in Oxford which will host international visitors as well as providing a venue for community meetings.

  7.  EPSRC has taken the lead in enabling the establishment of the £6 million "Keeping the Nuclear Option Open" (KNOO) initiative due to start October 2005 which will run for four years. With a £0.5 million contribution from BNFL, KNOO will address issues such as fuel cycles and fuel management, future reactor systems including Gen IV technologies, waste management, storage and decommissioning and extending existing plant lifetime through materials science and technology. The other key Government and industrial stakeholders involved with the initiative are: AWE; BNFL; British Energy; DEFRA; the Environment Agency; the Health and Safety Executive; DTI; Mitsui Babcock; MOD; Nirex; NNC; Rolls-Royce PLC; and UKAEA.

  8.  An additional £8.5 million from EPSRC has enabled joint funding with NERC, ESRC and BBSRC of research consortia under the TSEC Programme's carbon management: sequestration (£2.0 million); and biofuels (£2.5 million)—which will run for 3 and 3½ years respectively; three research groups on transition to a sustainable energy economy (University of Sussex) (£2.8 million); economic policy analysis (Cambridge) (£2.4 million); and energy consumption (Surrey) (£3.0 million)—each for five years; and a consortia on public engagement with renewable energy technologies (£0.5 million) which will run for three years.

  9.  In April 2005 the Research Councils established a new Energy Programme, led by EPSRC. The Energy Programme will expand the Research Councils' total investment in energy research over the SR2004 period from the present level of approximately £40 million per annum in 2005-06 to approximately £70 million per annum in 2007-08. Much of the increased expenditure is expected to be in the engineering and technology research areas supported by EPSRC, but will also encompass the range of energy research issues including social, economic, environmental and biological contributions that will be developed in conjunction with other Research Councils.

  10.  NERC, EPSRC and ESRC each contribute to the total budget of £10 million for the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at 50%, 37.5% and 12.5% proportions respectively. The Centre has research collaborations with numerous partners such as the CCLRC, the Environment Agency, DEFRA and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The Tyndall Centre supports transdisciplinary research, assessment and communication of the options to mitigate, and the necessities to adapt to climate change within the context of sustainable development. The Centre's total budget for the first phase of funding is £10 million over five years. Research relevant to energy efficiency comes under the research theme "Decarbonising Modern Societies", which aims to provide technical, regulatory, social and policy options to reduce atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases nationally and globally. The total expenditure in this theme amounted to £2 million over the life of the present first funding phase. To aid knowledge transfer, the DTI additionally provides £70k per year to allow the Centre to run a Business Liaison Programme.

Table 1

Notes on data:

1.  The data presented in the table are for expenditure on grants in the financial years shown.

2.  The data shown do not include the NERC (£5M) or EPSRC (£3.75M) contributions to the £10M Tyndall Centre Programme.

3.  The data shown includes expenditure on the UK Energy Research Centre but not on other TSEC activities.

Annex 1



  1. EPSRC supports research and training in the core physical sciences (mathematics, physics and chemistry), underpinning technologies (eg materials science and information & communications technologies) and all aspects of engineering.

  2.  EPSRC awards research grants through two main delivery modes - responsive and managed. Through the responsive mode EPSRC invests in the highest quality research projects, as judged by peer review, within subject areas of the researchers choosing. In managed mode, researchers submit their research ideas in response to a research remit specified by EPSRC and key stakeholders; conditions may be applied to applications, for example the requirement that proposals involve an industrial collaborator.

  3.  EPSRC believes that it is technically feasible to meet the likely shortfall in electricity generating capacity by approaching the "generation gap" from a truly mixed energy supply perspective, including most if not all of energy generation technologies such as renewables, cleaner fossil fuel technologies and nuclear fission and in the longer term fusion power. EPSRC also recognises the huge potential for energy efficiency improvements to lead to a reduction in both energy demand and CO2 emissions.

  4.  Research, development, demonstration and technology transfer are all essential to enable the implementation of innovation in the energy supply market and funding agencies must work in effective partnerships to support innovation. EPSRC would emphasise that the shortage of trained personnel within the energy industry as a key area of concern.

  5.  This memorandum provides an overview of the research in energy supported by EPSRC including current and future activities.


  6.  ESPRC aims to support a full spectrum of energy research to help the UK meet the objectives and targets set out in the 2003 Energy White Paper.

  7.  EPSRC has a large portfolio of research relevant to energy. Research activities include technologies associated with the extraction of energy resources (principally coal, oil and gas), energy production (utilising carbon-based, nuclear, and renewable sources), and electricity transmission and distribution. The transmission and distribution of electricity encompasses research relating to power systems management, protection and control systems, energy vectors such as hydrogen, energy storage and recovery and embedded generation . Research funded includes also some areas of research underpinning the current and future activities in the power sector such as nuclear physics. EPSRC funds also a diverse range of research into the development and introduction of potential energy efficiency measures in areas extending from the built environment to industrial processes and products, from materials to power generation, and from markets and regulation to organisational and individual behaviour. Table 2 summarises EPSRC spent by technology in the financial years from 2000 to date.

Table 2

  8.  EPSRC provides a major investment in renewable energy and related R&D, at a level of £31.7 million in the period 2000-01 to 2004-05. Renewable sources of power include wave, wind, biomass, solar PV, and fuel cells utilising renewable hydrogen sources. The portfolio includes issues relating to the integration of renewable sources of generation into the energy grid. An indicative breakdown of EPSRC's investment classified by technology area is provided in Table 2—although the nature of research is such that it is likely that EPSRC funded research, being undertaken in other areas such as materials, chemistry and physics, may also give rise to useful results in this field. Full details of all of the projects identified by EPSRC as relevant to the inquiry can be provided if required.

  9.  The investment by EPSRC in these areas reflects current and past research priorities in energy research. EPSRC has supported a series of managed programmes in energy-relevant topics including fuel cells, photovoltaics, energy storage, renewable and new energy technologies, and energy supply research for the 21st century. The operation of responsive mode and managed programmes in parallel means that while strategic investment in targeted areas have a significant influence on the overall distribution of research funding, the ongoing award of research grants in responsive mode allows for a broader range of innovative research ideas.

  10.  EPSRC is continuing to make strategic investments in research addressing both the supply and demand side of the energy economy through a major research programme on Sustainable Power Generation and Supply (SUPERGEN). SUPERGEN, started in July 2003, is a multidisciplinary research programme that addresses simultaneously technical solutions and market and public acceptability issues. As such it is ideally placed to inform the development of effective regulatory strategies to enable the transition towards a low carbon economy. EPSRC total investment in SUPERGEN is of £25 million over five years. Research is delivered through multidisciplinary consortia of the order of £2-3 million tackling key challenges in improving the sustainability of the power supply industry. The activities of the SUPERGEN Programme have been expanded into the social, environmental and life sciences to address these challenges. This has enabled SUPERGEN to become a collaborative activity across the research councils including BBSRC, ESRC and NERC. Initial priority areas funded under the SUPERGEN Programme were biomass, wave & tidal generation, hydrogen generation & storage, and future distribution networks. The second phase of the programme, with grants awarded early in 2004, is focusing on conventional generation plant lifetime extension and photovoltaics. The third and fourth phase priorities, with grants awarded between January and August 2005, include fuel cells, energy storage & recovery, distributed technology and next generation photovoltaic materials. Priorities for the fifth phase include wind technologies, biological fuel cells and network infrastructure, these awards are expected to be announced later in 2005. The expectation is that the total value of the Programme over the five-year period, inclusive of third party contributions, will be in excess of £40 million.

  11.  EPSRC is also working in partnership with the Carbon Trust on "Carbon Vision", a £14 million joint R&D programme on low carbon innovation, with additional funding from ESRC and NERC. This programme is supporting research to underpin the development of tomorrow's low carbon technologies. Carbon Vision's current activities are research consortia in low carbon buildings and low carbon industrial processes. The £5.4 million Carbon Vision Buildings consortium aims to create and assess a range of options whereby the owners and operators of the national building stock can reduce carbon emissions significantly in comparison with today's performance. The Carbon Vision Industrial Processes consortium (£1 million) aims to develop a methodology for a systematic life-cycle estimation of carbon inventories in different industries (food, chemicals, plastic, construction and biomass). EPSRC and ESRC have also invested further £0.8 million in a Carbon Vision project aiming at developing detailed understanding of the barriers that apply at times of disruptive innovation towards low carbon systems, and at identifying responses to these barriers that will promote step changes in carbon efficiency, The Carbon Vision programme includes management arrangements to encourage close co-operation between the research teams. An engagement group of key research users is being established for Carbon Vision Buildings to provide advice and guidance to ensure that the Carbon Vision portfolio delivers high quality stakeholder-focused, solutions-driven research. As a final phase of the current Carbon Vision programme, ESPRC is planning to fund two awards to develop future research leaders in low carbon technology and, in particular, in energy efficiency. Each award will be allocated £1 million to provide research support in terms of staff and other items to excellent researchers who have the potential to become international leaders. We will also be looking for commitment from the university in terms of longer term support for the research group and for exploitation. The successful candidates will also be provided with contacts and mentoring to help them develop international and high level business and policy-related contacts.

  12.  A Collaborative Training Account to provide masters level and continuing professional development training in nuclear energy related skills has been funded with £1 million from EPSRC and £1.6 million from various stakeholders such as Government bodies (NDA, MoD, Cogent), regulators (HSE/NII) and leading industrial employers (BNFL (including NSTS, Energy Unit, British Nuclear Group), UKAEA, AWE, Rolls-Royce Naval Marine, Serco, British Energy, Nirex, NIS, NNC, NPL, Mitsui Babcock, Atkins Nuclear, INucE and BNES).

  13.  The Nuclear Technology Education Consortium (NTEC) includes eleven universities and other training partners and the key public and private sector stakeholder groups in the UK. NTEC will cover decommissioning and clean-up, reactor technology and fuel cycles, environment and safety, policy and regulation, project management, fusion and medical use.

  14.  A Letter of Arrangement (LoA) has been agreed between EPSRC, the Ministry of Defence, the Atomic Weapons Establishment, British Nuclear Fuels PLC and British Energy PLC. The first activity under this LoA is to establish a Nuclear Engineering Doctorate (EngD) Centre. The EngD is a four year, industrially relevant doctoral training programme which offers a radical alternative to the PhD, geared to training research managers of the future. It is hoped that the first intake of students will take place in the 2006-07 academic year.

  15.  From April 2003, EPSRC funds the UK Fusion programme based at Culham. The UK Fusion programme includes the UK participation to the European Programme Joint European Torus (JET) and the development of the UK's own spherical tokamak—the Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak (MAST). The programme is currently supported by a single large grant of £48 million for four years from April 2004 to March 2008. A mid term review of the activity is scheduled for January 2006 which will look at the level of funding for the second half of the grant and to address the current plans for JET extension and the associated host subscription requirements. The research programme funded by EPSRC is aligned to the development of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) and will be enhanced by £8.65 million in this spending review period.

  16.  EPSRC continues to invest in research and training relevant to the oil and gas sector and areas such as clean coal, efficient combustion, combined cycle and gasification technology. EPSRC recognises the potential of carbon sequestration combined with fossil fuel plant as a potential zero-net carbon energy source; this option should be explored further as one of a number of priorities within a broad-based R&D programme.

  17.  EPSRC is working with the DTI under the auspices of the Memorandum of Understanding with the USA on collaboration in energy research, as part of this agreement, this year EPSRC will fund postgraduate research students to spend an additional year working on hydrogen-related research at Sandia National Laboratories in the USA.

  18.  Energy has been identified as a strategic area to be addressed by the EPSRC Science and Innovation Awards programme. Established in partnership with the Higher Education Funding Council, the Science and Innovation Awards programme aims to address academic capacity needs in areas with declining number of entrants as a result of a changing research landscape. £2.7 million have been awarded to the University of Strathclyde to focus on future trends in power technology.

  19.  Platform grants are one of the key mechanisms by which EPSRC strives towards maintaining and developing the strength of the UK engineering and scientific research base, by supporting, through underpinning funding, those UK groups considered to be world leaders in their fields. Platform funding is aimed at providing a baseline of support for retention of key research staff with the aim of providing stability to these groups. It is also anticipated that it will provide the stability and flexibility to permit longer-term research and international networking, and to take a strategic view on their research. An example of such a platform grant is supporting a group at Imperial College London looking at the development of clean, small scale energy generation technologies and their integration with the existing power system.

  20.  EPSRC supports the establishment of networks in new interdisciplinary research areas to develop and stimulate interactions between the appropriate science, technology research community and industrial groups. An example is the Radioactive Waste Immobilisation network which aims to provide a forum for all stakeholders to foster an integrated approach to nuclear waste management through improved communication and the identification of new collaborative research programmes.

  21.  The Faraday Partnerships have been established to strengthen the way technology is developed and exploited within the UK by stimulating closer communication and cooperation between researchers and new product developers. DTI and EPSRC sponsor the Integration of New and Renewable Energy into Buildings Faraday Partnership. This provides a national focus for research, training and technology transfer in building-integrated new and renewable energy technologies, relevant to research into energy efficiency. It includes research on options beyond the basic energy efficiency packages of measures in the domestic and non-domestic building sector, with over 225 companies, Universities and other organisations involved. The core funding consists of a grant from the DTI of £1.2 million for three years, and a grant of £1 million from the EPSRC. In addition, ESPRC provided funding for fourteen postgraduate studentships in collaboration with industry sponsors.

  22.  Fifty per cent of EPSRC's current energy research portfolio is conducted in collaboration with industry, involving over 200 companies, with the value of their cash contributions totalling over £7 million.

  23.  Working with the DTI, EPSRC is organising an Energy Research Summit Launch, to be held in November 2005. This will launch the expanded Research Councils' Energy Programme and provide the starting point to develop better strategic engagement on research and training priorities with energy-related business. Participants will be asked to identify common business-led research or postgraduate training opportunities which will then be worked up in more detail, culminating in a second Energy Research Summit in spring 2006.

  24.  EPSRC aim to appoint a prominent member of the energy research community as an energy senior research fellow to be an envoy and advocate for the Research Councils' energy work. In particular, their work will involve developing the international profile and level of collaboration and to provide information to EPSRC on potential international research opportunities. The appointment will be made in early 2006.

Annex 2


  The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) welcomes the opportunity to comment. NERC is one of the UK's eight Research Councils. It funds and carries out impartial scientific research in the sciences of the environment. NERC trains the next generation of independent environmental scientists. Its priority research areas are: Earth's life-support systems, climate change, and sustainable economies.

  NERC's research centres are: the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the British Geological Survey (BGS), the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) and the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory (POL). Details of these and of NERC's collaborative centres can be found at

  NERC's comments draw on inputs from BGS, CEH and Swindon Office staff.


  1.  The inquiry emphasises financial costs, and although it is concerned with carbon emissions and the public acceptability of nuclear waste, it does not address other environmental or social issues which are necessary for a holistic picture and for proper assessment of the sustainability of the UK's energy-generation choices.

  2.  The inquiry also focuses entirely on electricity generation—in isolation both from other forms of energy and from the uses to which different forms can be put. Obviously, electricity is easily moved around to provide both motive power and space heating, for example. But space heating (and cooling) can also be provided by other forms of energy, eg heat from the earth (geothermal energy) available at the location where it is needed. Our apparent electricity needs should therefore be assessed in the light of alternative ways of meeting them.

  3.  Nuclear-related questions requiring attention by the Committee concern the supply of uranium: its origin, transport, and possible limits on availability.


What are the latest estimates of the likely shortfall in electricity generating capacity caused by the phase-out of existing nuclear power stations and some older coal plant? How do these relate to electricity demand forecasts and to the effectiveness of energy efficiency policies?

  4.  As indicated above, the provision of energy to users is not all about electricity. Some demands can be met by other forms of energy, such as geothermal energy for space-heating and cooling, and although switching to such sources may not fully compensate for predicted electricity shortfalls, their contribution could be significant.


What are the main investment options for electricity generating capacity? What would be the likely costs and timescales of different generating technologies?

    What are the likely construction and on-going operating costs of different large-scale technologies (eg nuclear new build, CCGT, clean coal, on-shore wind, off-shore wind, wave and tidal) in terms of the total investment required and in terms of the likely costs of generation (p/kWh)? Over what timescale could they become operational?

  5.  BP's/Scottish power recently announced (July 2005) their plan to construct the Miller hydrogen-burning power plant with CO2 capture and geological storage. It could be operational by 2009 if construction is commissioned by 2006—much sooner than a nuclear power plant. BP is still working on the detailed economics but it is likely that the cost will be similar to or below the cost of nuclear or offshore wind, and the plant will have significant flexibility to meet demand swings (unlike nuclear or wind). It will avoid about 1Mt/year of CO2 emissions. It uses natural gas as the primary fuel. Other companies such as Progressive Energy have designs and plans for coal-based hydrogen power coupled with CO2 capture and storage. These designs compare favourably with nuclear and offshore wind in terms of costs per KWh. and, again, have flexibility to meet supply swings. These installations will not become a commercial reality until there is an economic benefit to the operators for decarbonising fossil fuels.

    With regard to nuclear new build, how realistic and robust are cost estimates in the light of past experience? What are the hidden costs (eg waste, insurance, security) associated with nuclear? How do the waste and decommissioning costs of nuclear new build relate to the costs of dealing with the current nuclear waste legacy, and how confident can we be that the nuclear industry would invest adequately in funds ring-fenced for future waste disposal?

  6.  There are hidden costs associated with all energy sources. Rarely is holistic accounting used. The hidden costs of nuclear new build include not only decommissioning and waste-handling costs, but also the cost of environmental and social impacts, which need to be explicitly assessed.

  7.  The current nuclear waste legacy is large in volume and radiation. This has been and is being dealt with to remove the risk to future generations. Much depends on whether reprocessing is to be allowed. If it is then future nuclear power will generate significant waste streams. If not then the volume of waste will be much smaller and more easily absorbed within existing and proposed management plans. Assessments of environmental capacity will have to contribute to these plans. Some people consider that components of nuclear waste will provide an exploitable resource to future generations; others consider that it will not be possible to adequately communicate warnings about storage sites to (distant) future generations.

    Is there the technical and physical capacity for renewables to deliver the scale of generation required? If there is the capacity, are any policy changes required to enable it to do so?

  8.  Each of the renewable sources has its own limits on capacity and the limits are not independent of one another. For example, different sources may compete for the same space and/or compromise each other's requirements for water or wind. However, they may work synergistically, for example providing complementary generating systems and transfer routes. Increasing renewables generation may conflict with other land uses (agricultural food production, forestry, landscape, etc) and these impacts need to be examined, but the use of small-scale local generation mechanisms (eg micro-wind) could avoid that. Policy may be necessary to change people's appreciation of energy.

      —  What are the relative efficiencies of different generating technologies? In particular, what contribution can micro-generation (micro-CHP, micro-wind, PV) make, and how would it affect investment in large-scale generating capacity?

    No comment.

      —  What is the attitude of financial institutions to investment in different forms of generation?

    No comment.

      —  What is the attitude of financial institutions to the risks involved in nuclear new build and the scale of the investment required? How does this compare with attitudes towards investment in CCGT and renewables?

  9.  Financial risk is not the only risk that needs to be considered; the cost of and responsibility for failure and environmental damage has to be identified at the outset.

      —  How much Government financial support would be required to facilitate private sector investment in nuclear new build? How would such support be provided? How compatible is such support with liberalised energy markets?

    No comment.

      —  What impact would a major programme of investment in nuclear have on investment in renewables and energy efficiency?

    No comment.


If nuclear new build requires Government financial support, on what basis would such support be justified? What public good(s) would it deliver?

  10.  Support could be most obviously justified by the need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions (to meet our Kyoto commitment). Other grounds could include reduction of other atmospheric pollutants if there were an equivalent reduction in fossil-fuel use (eg nitrogen and sulphur compounds).

  11.  The environmental costs of all energy generation mechanisms need to be considered by means of full life-cycle analysis. New nuclear development should not be looked at in isolation from other generating systems, but should be seen as a component of a diverse rounded supply sector, with a view to replacing nuclear fission with nuclear fusion in the intermediate to longer term. The cost benefits of maintaining our centralised electricity grid rather than moving to more community-based systems should also be considered.

  12.  The main public good to be delivered would be mitigation of climate change (but this would only be delivered in combination with a wider energy-supply and demand package). Others could include cleaner air and a secure electricity supply.

      —  To what extent and over what timeframe would nuclear new build reduce carbon emissions?

  13.  Carbon emissions will not be decreased simply by the construction of nuclear power stations. A decrease is dependent on decreased demand, and on what happens to our use of electricity, and energy generally, from other sources. At present our consumption of energy is rising, and new nuclear might serve merely to meet that rising demand or replace existing nuclear capacity. Without new nuclear, it is probable that our carbon emissions will rise more dramatically.

      —  To what extent would nuclear new build contribute to security of supply (ie keeping the lights on)?

    No comment.

      —  Is nuclear new build compatible with the Government's aims on security and terrorism both within the UK and worldwide?

    No comment.

In respect of these issues [Q 4], how does the nuclear option compare with a major programme of investment in renewables, microgeneration, and energy efficiency? How compatible are the various options with each other and with the strategy set out in the Energy White Paper?

  14.  The Energy White Paper (EWP) suggested putting nuclear development on hold until the waste-management issues had been addressed; these are currently being considered. The EWP goals are environmental improvement (reduction in carbon emissions), security of supply (through diversity), improving quality of life (less fuel poverty) and economic development (through innovation). Nuclear can contribute to all the goals as part of a diverse energy-generation mix.


How carbon-free is nuclear energy? What level of carbon emissions would be associated with (a) construction and (b) operation of a new nuclear power station? How carbon-intensive is the mining and processing of uranium ore?

  15.  The emissions (a) associated with construction are far less than renewables which require massive infrastructure per KWh delivered. Construction on the surface, using existing techniques, will, however, require cements and metals that are associated with carbon emissions. New construction techniques could utilise underground voids. This could impact on terrorism and security issues. With regard to the operation of a new nuclear power station (b), nuclear energy has very low life-cycle emissions. The carbon emissions of uranium mining are likely to be very high but not significant in the context of nuclear's overall very low life-cycle emissions.

Should nuclear new build be conditional on the development of scientifically and publicly acceptable solutions to the problems of managing nuclear waste, as recommended in 2000 by the RCEP?

  16.  The public needs to gain a good understanding of the security and risks of waste management. Solutions do exist and are being used internationally. We need to consider the effect on waste streams of reprocessing; existing wastes contain a significant component from this.

21 September 2005

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