By Matthew Chisholm. S/N 586188
Energy Crisis in the U.K
Britain is in a state of crisis. Energy concerns are more expensive than ever and plans going forward look bleak. In 2012 43% of our energy requirements came from coal fired power stations- the dirtiest form of electricity production on the planet. It was a record year for coal and well above the 30% recorded in 2012.
Coal fired power stations are able to produce massive amounts of energy (800-2000Mw per year) relatively cheaply. The massive heat furnaces are used to boil water and generate steam to turn the turbines that help maximise the power stations outputs. They also produce carbon dioxide and water vapour as bi-products. These chemicals pollute the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. The green view and that of the European community is that alternatives should be found as the cost to the environment is too great to continue producing energy this way. As new European legislation comes to the fore old power stations are being forced to close. Recently Kings north in Kent, Didcot A in Oxfordshire and Cockenzie in East Lothian have ceased operations. With 15 coal power stations remaining presently half of these will have to close by 2015, possibly all by 2020, in order to hit European environmental targets.
Where will our energy come from this year and the next? How will we make up this new shortfall in energy being supplied to the national grid? Whilst politicians reassure us that we have sufficient energy sources until 2015 and beyond the private sector companies and regulatory boards are a little more sceptical. Ofgem believes there is a real chance of power cuts within five years. Total blackouts that will affect large sections of the country. Ofgem Chief Alistair Buchanan warned the current system is not working and said there was ‘reasonable doubt’ over the government’s current plans to ensure Britain has enough energy to fulfil demand past 2015. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/article-1248296/Britain-facing-energy-crisis.html#ixzz28e6UR84c
Coal fired power stations are not the only power stations having to close. Nuclear stations are closing because of old age and take time and money to decommission and make safe. Environmentalist opposition has delayed construction for a decades spreading doubt amongst the British population. Our reliance on nuclear power as a result has reduced in this time. The United Kingdom's first commercial nuclear power reactor began operating in 1956 and, at the peak in 1997, 26% of the nation's electricity was generated from nuclear power. Since then a number of reactors have closed and the share has declined to 19% in 2012. Nuclear power generates around one sixth of the United Kingdom's electricity, using 16 operational nuclear reactors at nine plants (14 advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGR), one pressurised water reactor (PWR), and one Magnox), as well as a nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield. French state owned EDF Energy is planning to build four new reactors at two sites, with public consultation completed and initial groundwork done work is beginning on the first two reactors, sited at Hinkley Point in Somerset. EDF in partnership with the Chinese will build the two new reactors at Hinkley Point at a cost of £15billion and with a proposed completion date of 2023. The plant will be very similar to the project in Normandy France. Running behind schedule and over budget the power plant is due for completion next year and will be able to produce 2-4 Gw of energy going into the national grid. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-24604218
There is a lack of consensus in the UK about the cost/benefit nature of nuclear energy, as well as ideological influence (for instance, those favouring 'energy security' generally arguing pro, while those worried about the 'environmental impact' against). Because of this, and a lack of a consistent energy policy in the UK