Justification of new nuclear power in the UK

May 26, 2009

Paul Dorfman- Paul Dorfman is with the Nuclear Consultation Group and a senior research fellow at the University of Warwick. The opinions expressed are his own.

“Justification” of new-build nuclear power is a high-level assessment of whether the benefits of building new nuclear plants outweigh the detriments. Once the justification decision has been taken it will be difficult if not impossible to re-open this major issue.

And there are real problems – for example, information on how radiation-waste and radiation-spent fuel from any new nuclear build could possibly be managed, or the health impact of radiation-discharges will not be fully assessed until after the “Justification” decision is taken. “Justification” of new-build nuclear power will be decided even before the new reactor design is assessed.

Also there are significant data gaps in the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) Application on which “Justification” is built. There is simply not enough information presented by the NIA in their application to make a rational decision about whether new nuclear build is warranted or not. For such a significant process, the Justification timeline is short, and decisions will take place in closed session – far from public scrutiny.

The Nuclear Consultation Group believe that it is unfair that that the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change is to be the Justifying Authority – the person who makes the final decision – this is because he has already expressed clear support for new nuclear reactors.

Given that Justification, once finalised, may foreclose on any future discussion on issues crucial to nuclear power, it is vital that this process is opened up in order to allow for meaningful and realistic examination of evidence a public forum.

Because the Justification of new nuclear power in the UK represents a key issue for trust in governance concerning energy policy and the control of radiation risk, we believe the Government should hold an independent inquiry, as allowed for under the regulations governing Justification: The Justification of Practices Involving Ionising Radiation Regulations 2004 (No. 1769), Regulation 17.


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